Grand Action presents study with big plans, economic growth for Grand Rapids

Posted at 6:34 PM, Dec 05, 2016

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Expect to see more growth in Grand Rapids over the next decade, with proposals ranging from acquiring a professional soccer team to restoring the Grand River's rapids.

Monday Grand Action presented its Grand Rapids Destination Asset Study findings to the Grand Rapids Economic Club. The summary addressed how to build tourism and continue to grow Grand Rapids on a national front.

“We’ve got a great story to tell, we’ve just got to tell the story," said David Frey, Grand Action co-chair.

Frey believes, of the proposed projects, expanding DeVos Place by 115,000 square feet of sellable space and building a hotel within reasonable walking distance is a must.

“Tier one is a New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the great cities of North America: we want to be in that next tier right below that," said Frey. "We think we can get there, and to get there we’re going to have to expand the convention facility, and develop a 500 to 600-room hotel to market it.”

John Kaatz, with Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, presented the study findings including possible game changers for Grand Rapids. For instance, the findings propose the city acquires a professional USL soccer team and builds an 8,000-seat corresponding stadium. Proposals taking center stage also included the restoration of the Grand River along with building it into an outdoor adventure destination.

"We all have fun with the Beer City thing, but quite honestly it’s been a difference maker, we are getting a ton of visitors coming here overnight just for the beer scene," said Doug Small, president and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids. "I think there’s great opportunity in the adventure side of things if we can get this river activated. There’s ample opportunity to drive new leisure business into Grand Rapids that’ll do well for all.”

Cost estimates range from $83 million to expand DeVos Place to $35-40 million to restore the Grand River rapids alone, for example. Building public/private partnerships to pay for projects is now the next step according to key players like Kaatz.

“Right now we’re beyond visioning, more in the planning stages saying what do we need to do to continue the projects," said Kaatz. "The next step is how do we pay for it, where does it go, what’s the timing, all of those details are going to be worked out in the next stages of discussion.”

Frey told FOX 17 he believes the public will see more distinct plans for projects after the next six months. He said outreach group sessions will begin Tuesday with interest groups in the city to drive funding to make the proposals a reality.