Friday, March 28, 2014

Where Does All of the Ice Go When Hockey Isn’t Being Played?

This is one of the most common questions that we regularly receive from fans. The truth is that the ice is down nearly year-round. The last time you visited us for a non-hockey event, it is likely that the entire show was taking place on top of the ice.

While the answer is simple, the work behind it is not as simple so we seldom remove the ice in its entirety. The process of maintaining and removing/replacing the ice takes hours of skilled labor and attention to detail to make sure it is carried out smoothly. In fact, the only times we always remove the ice are when Monster Jam and Ringling Bros. come to town. (Monster Jam’s massive trucks require the traction that the friction with the cement floor provides, and the circus has to rig props into the floor to ensure safety for their performers.) Aside from these two shows and an occasional summer floor cleaning, the ice is covered with a couple layers of temporary flooring that fits together like giant puzzle pieces.

The ice is normally maintained at 17 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and is approximately one inch thick. In the past, a deionizer tank system was used in the creation of the ice, but we have switched over to a custom reverse osmosis water filtration system, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

The process of removing the ice starts with our Zamboni’s. We use these ice resurfacers to help expose the logos underneath. These mesh logos, usually there are about 20 of them, are carefully pulled out of the ice to be cleaned and stored. The ice is then heated to loosen it up. Once the ice has softened, we use multiple vehicles, two Zamboni’s with a special “V” plow attached, a plow truck, a tractor, and two hi-los, to remove the ice. Once the majority of the ice is removed, a squeegee is attached to the tractor in order to further push the water down drains. Once complete, the floor is cleaned, the side boards removed, and setup for the incoming show begins.

This does not mean the job is done, however. Once the show is over, the ice needs to be rebuilt. To begin, the floor is cleaned with a special solvent. In the case of Monster Jam, we rent a “monster” sized floor scrubber to remove the tire tracks left embedded in the concrete. While cleaning the floor, we slowly cool the concrete by running coolant through 12 miles of piping that lay underneath. If the floor cools too quickly, the concrete ice pad that our ice sheet rests on will crack. The temperature of the floor eventually reaches a chilly 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and the operations team lightly floods the floor to even it out and fill any imperfections.

To achieve a glowing, white-colored ice, we utilize a 60-gallon tank attached with a 200-foot hose to cover the floor with a white paint powder and cold water mixture. This step is repeated three times.

Now the more tedious work begins. Six layers of thin ice are laid down individually on top of the white paint. Once the sixth layer has frozen, the process of painting the lines begins. Screws are placed in specially marked spots on the dasher boards so we can attach strings to guide straight lines. Then a staff of two paints five perfect circles, each with a 30-foot circumference. Once half the lines and circles are completed another crew comes in and starts to paint the AHL or NCAA official hash marks and face off circles. This paint is in liquid form and is diluted with hot water. Meanwhile, the mesh logos are being perfectly placed. Once we have the logos down, they are sealed with a coating of fine spray from a pump sprayer. This must be done many times to make sure the logos do not move or blur.

Now it is time to bring out the big hose. Once all logos are in place and painting is done, we pump several thin layers of water onto the ice throughout the night. It may sound odd, but once the ice reaches about a half-inch of thickness, we use Zamboni’s to flood the ice with hot water in order to relieve any ice stresses. If done properly the sheet of ice should look like crystal clear glass!

At this point, the hard work is over and the ice needs to be “skated in” as the perfect ice sheet is too dense for the liking of a professional or collegiate hockey team.

Special thanks to our Operations Manager, Kevin Abbott, and his crew for walking us through the process and keeping everything running smoothly. Keep up the impressive work guys!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

With Time Comes Change: New Video Board Installed

Van Andel Arena turned 17 years old this year, and with age comes change and the need for upgrades. If you haven’t made it to a Grand Rapids Griffins game at the SMG-managed arena yet this fall, you’ll notice something new the next time you visit. In early October, installation of a brand new video board began at the south end of the arena in order to enhance the experience of fans and guests.

The new widescreen video board is approximately 698 square feet (15.6’ x 44.72’) and displays advanced viewing angles with 3-in-1 LED pixels for a high quality picture regardless of where you are in the arena. It is capable of displaying both high definition and standard definition video that can be divided across the screen, allowing for multiple frames to be displayed simultaneously. The Daktronics screen is an upgrade from the previous video system that was much smaller and could only display standard definition video.

From video replays to advertisements and informational video clips, the new screen’s size, versatility and crystal clear picture quality will demand the attention of everyone in the audience, including those at the far end of the arena. Fans who attended the Grand Rapids Griffins’ home-opener this season were able to catch the first glimpse of the board as it was debuted during the game on October 18th, the same night as the Griffins' AHL Calder Cup Championship banner raising ceremony. The screen will be utilized during all home Griffins games and other sporting events at the arena.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Keeping it Clean: Arena Summer Months Are Cleaning Months

There are 12,800 seats in the Van Andel Arena. In one year, hundreds of concert goers, thrill junkies, entertainment seekers and Griffins fans will sit in each and every seat. Our seats are forsaken as just a place to sit, when theses thrones of opportunity truly lead to so much more.

Your seat introduces you to the world you have suddenly become a part of. It throws you alongside the throngs of screaming fans. It propels you onto your feet when our team scores a goal, and holds your beer while you celebrate in a round of high fives. It lifts your children higher as they stretch to see the circus elephants. And it brings friends together for a night out on the town. Our seats play an imminent role in the Van Andel Arena experience, and we proudly care for them throughout the year.

For almost two months every summer, our maintenance team cleans the place that brings happiness to so many. The crew cleans the floors, walls, decking and understructure, power washes the chair beams and cleans the upholstery of the arena bowl. The edges of the stairs are repainted for safety, the catwalk and concourse are thoroughly dusted, and any gum remnants are scraped away. The hardworking team at hand consists of eight SMG members, alongside an additional six to 18 people per day depending on the number of projects occurring at once. 

To begin the cleaning process, the crew starts with the most important element of the arena’s bowl: the seats. They actually disassemble the entire row of chairs to power wash underneath them and thoroughly clean the seats. From there, they are able to inspect possible damages and perform repairs. The crew checks the dasher boards for damages, looks for broken welds and tightens any loose screws.

Beyond the bowl, the team cleans 2,400 folding and banquet chairs, cleans the facility’s carpet and rewaxes the lobby’s entrance. They also get downright dirty by cleaning out the compactor room and just plain stinky when cleaning out the zamboni pit! Also at this time, the team works together in updating and extending training of safety procedures to meet SMG’s best practices programs and remain OSHA compliant.

To say the least, the crew is busy. They began this year’s cleaning process following the Calder Cup Playoffs and the June 30th Rush Concert. And they will complete their dirty jobs just in time for our fall events, because we have another year of concerts, thrills and games to cheer about at Van Andel Arena! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Toby Love to Become First Spanish Singing Artist to Perform at Van Andel Arena

Hear the name “Toby Love,” and think “crunkchata.” Think of music moving you across the dance floor. Think of the sweetness of his lyrics and the sultriness of his melodies.

Toby Love has made a prominent name for himself in the Latin music realm. It is his unique “crunkchata” style that hails from elements of R. Kelly, Juan Luis Guerra, Pitbull and even Michael Jackson that energizes his audience and his popularity.

“Crunkchata” is the contagious and dance-worthy rhythm produced by Latin cultures, languages and genres mixing as one identity that Love developed in 2006 while recording his first solo album and traveling between New York and Miami.

At this time, he was picking up both urban melodies and tropical elements. These influences pushed him toward combining the distinct sounds with one another; however, his unique background is what truly enabled the “crunkchata” movement.

The 28-year-old singer was born in the Bronx, New York to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Given the birth name Octavio Rivera, his elementary school friends teased him for always chasing after girls and nicknamed him “Toby Love.” The name quickly caught on and appropriately fits the romantic lyrics of his most popular songs.

At a young age Love’s mother married a Dominican man, introducing him to the culture Love has become an “honorary” member of. He remembers his mother listening to the traditional Dominican bachata music as she cleaned the house and he remembers falling in love with its rhythm and its culture. Growing up in a highly musical family, Love soon found himself on a path toward singing.

In 1999, Love became a member of what would be the premier group that would open bachata to households across the entire globe, Aventura. Alongside mega superstar, Romeo Santos, Aventura was soon producing international hits. Their world-wide success propelled them to the top of Latin Billboard charts and award winning ceremonies.

To Love, music has always been a way to further understand his own identity and after six years with Aventura, he chose to pursue a path as a solo artist in hopes of deepening this sense of self.

Since breaking away, Love has released five chart topping albums, created his own production label, Scarlito Entertainment, and continues to grow as an artist. Immediately after hitting the solo scene, his self entitled debut album was awarded Latin Billboard’s Latin Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year and in 2007 his successful song “Tengo un Amor” was dubbed Latin Billboard’s Tropical Airplay Song of the Year.

“Crunkchata” has developed into a culture and an identity for urban youth across the world. In finding himself, Love created a voice for the kids who he feels needed it most. And that, is true Love.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fans Enjoy One of Arena's Most Successful Months Ever

February was a busy month full of variety for fans of all kinds at Van Andel Arena.  From families to sports fans to music lovers, there was something for everyone in the shortest month of the year, and it showed with five sellouts by the time the month was through.

Fans from all over the state packed the house to see five concerts, including one comedian, six Grand Rapids Griffins hockey games, and a performance from Disney on Ice. What shaped up to be one of the most successful months in the history of the arena since its inception in 1996 also turned out to be one of the best for its fans.

In only an eight day stretch, West Michigan was treated to two shutout victories from the Grand Rapids Griffins and three back-to-back-to-back concerts over the second weekend of the month.  The faith-fueled Rock and Worship Roadshow kicked off the weekend and attracted lines wrapped completely around the arena before tickets could be purchased at the door for only $10.  Classic rockers Journey and comedian Jeff Dunham’s “Disorderly Conduct Tour” were crowd pleasers as well as both shows filled up the arena to close out the weekend.

The February fun didn’t stop as the Griffins continued their winning ways, racking up a total of five victories in six home games.  Mid-month featured American Country Music Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan selling out the arena with help from two other American Country Music Award-winning acts Florida Georgia Line (New Artist of the Year) and Thompson Square (Vocal Duo of the Year.)  Not to be outdone, dance pop-rockers Maroon 5 filled the arena to capacity on the 25th, and Disney on Ice kicked off a seven-show run on the 28th.

It certainly was a month with an assortment of shows. In such a busy month, a masterful job was done to keep the entertainment spread around to several types of fans. But make no doubt about it, the fans played as big of a role as anyone in the arena’s success. 

After all was said and done, close to 100,000 fans walked through the turnstiles of Van Andel Arena in the month of February.  It is this passion and enthusiasm from the fans paired with great shows for the arena that will keep high quality entertainment coming to Grand Rapids for years to come.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What You Need to Know About Paperless Ticketing

Reported several years ago, a company in Texas was found managing over 100 computers with their own software programs. That sounds perfectly fine at first glance since computers can be found virtually at every company across the globe. The problem here was that these computers in particular, had been programmed to purchase tickets to shows in bulk the instant they became available.

After tickets to numerous events and shows had been purchased, a ticket broker—who’d prearranged to purchase those tickets from the company—ultimately aimed to sell them back to the public. Sometimes, a ticket broker has their own computers. Tickets can change hands two to three times with every one of them looking to gain profit. So regardless of the process, the objective is the same—drive up the price.

Those darn scalpers.

The reality is people have been scalping for a long time—modifying their approach to modernize the way they make profits.  The latest technologies provide faster and faster ways to get tickets. One method is automated computer software programs such as the one in Texas.

Often seen as a victim-less crime, those profits do pay a price. And that price falls on true fans. Once the broker has tickets, prices skyrocket. The broker sometimes can make it practically impossible for the average Joe to get a seat to his favorite band when prices are marked up to over 200%.

Another problem this poses is the uncertain validity of tickets purchased on the secondary market. Sure, you may be able to fork over a couple extra hundred bucks to take your girlfriend or boyfriend to the Kid Rock show or take your spouse and kids to the spectacular “Wicked” Broadway show coming into town, but how do you know they are legit?

Here is where paperless tickets come into play.

Paperless ticketing is an alternative method of purchasing tickets and continuing to gain access to the shows you want to attend. Instead of receiving your tickets ahead of the event, the credit card used to make the purchase will serve as your ticket. All you need to attend the show is the credit card you used to purchase the ticket and a valid, government-issued ID (such as a driver's license, state ID or passport).

Promoters are employing the use of paperless tickets more and more successfully at some of the largest venues throughout the world, by many of the most popular artists including the likes of Kid Rock and more. Simply put, this measure best ensures that fans can buy tickets at the price they initially set for the event all the while enjoying the added convenience of not having to risk losing or misplacing paper stubs.

When patrons arrive at the venue, just go directly to the gate and/or ticket-taker and present the credit card used to purchase the tickets along with a government-issued ID. Upon scanning your credit card to validate your order, a seat locator slip for each ticket ordered will be printed off for each seat purchased in your order.

But say you’re purchasing tickets for others and don’t intend on attending the show?

If you buy tickets for friends or family, sometimes you only have to go to the gate, not through the gate. Simply accompany them to the venue and show your credit card and ID to get them in.

If you happen to lose your credit card after your purchase was made, simply bring a print out of your confirmation email or online order history from Ticketmaster with your government-issued ID to the box office. The box office will then verify the order and make sure the names match. If they do not match, entry will not be permitted.

Paperless tickets take the ease out of a ticket process that has for too long been manipulated at the cost of the artist all the way down to the common fan.

Click here to learn more about paperless ticketing. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Day In The Life Of a Globetrottin' Advance Ambassador

Every January during the week prior to the annual Harlem Globetrotters’ performance at Van Andel Arena, there’s a few of us SMG staff members lucky enough to spend a media day with one of the players. The “Advance Ambassador” for the Globetrotters will be chaperoned by a few of our staff as we journey through and around the city hitting several media outlets (television and radio, mostly) to promote the then-upcoming game.
A portion of the day is also set out to allow the Advance Ambassador to engage the youth and give back to the community. Globetrotters spend a lot of their time outside the gym and in schools promoting various causes throughout the globe. This year was no different.
Although the game has passed, we’d chronicled the day to show you, fans, what a day being an Advance Ambassador is like. Here’s our story:
On January 24th, we followed this year’s Globetrotters Advance Ambassador, “Buckets” Blakes.  It was a truly unforgettable experience.  Having the chance to see a day in the life of a Harlem Globetrotter allowed us not only to get a glimpse of a typical day for a world-class athlete/entertainer, but also a shining example of what makes the Harlem Globetrotters an unmatched and unique sports organization that continues to stand the test of time.

The life of a Globetrotter Ambassador is not one for those who aren’t fond of waking up before the sun does.  The day began with a tour of as many early morning shows as we could hit, from WOOD TV (Daybreak & eightwest) and WZZM (Take Five) to multiple radio stations, including WTRV, WFGR, WLHT, and WJRW.  Everywhere we went we heard new stories that reinforced the impact the Globetrotters have had on families for many years.  Whether it was Buckets explaining the community involvement and special projects of the organization or show staff members openly sharing their own Globetrotters involved memories from childhood.  Everyone wanted a picture with Buckets, and he was more than inviting when asked to pose in another snapshot.

In between stops through the media, Buckets got a little hungry. Waking up before dawn and not eating through the morning, we completely understood why. So being in the neighborhood, we thought what better way to show Buckets a slice of GR than to take Buckets to one of GR’s very well-known bakeries for some quick food—Wealthy Street Bakery (The Danish? Phenomenal).

Later on we headed over to MLive where Buckets took part in a paper shooting contest against the MLive staff a.k.a “Hubtrotters” while being interviewed.  Once again, Buckets had full celebrity status in the building as everyone gathered around to meet him and watch their co-workers try to out-shoot the basketball pro.  As with every stop we visited, Buckets lit up the room while spreading the good deeds and efforts of the Harlem Globetrotters, including their teamwork with the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

Finally we stopped in at Brookwood Elementary School in Kentwood where Buckets spoke to the students—who had absolutely no problem displaying their excitement as Buckets walked through the doors of the gym—about the ABCs of Bullying Prevention.  After getting the kids to volunteer their own ideas for preventing bullying, he taught a few of the kids some cool tricks and showed off a few of his own before posing for a few more pictures and signing a couple autographs.  Even the adults were rushing over for a moment with Buckets.

Throughout the day, Buckets kept talking about how the Globetrotters recruit players, saying they are always on the lookout for “great basketball players, great athletes, great entertainers, and great people.”  After a long media day with a Globetrotter, we can safely say that the Harlem Globetrotters are accomplishing just that while achieving great things along the way.  Young or old, the Globetrotters continue to make an impact in communities across the planet through entertainment, athletics, charitable works and humanitarian programs.  We will always look forward to the next time these guys trot back into town.

To check out some of the interviews and more articles about some of the visits that "Buckets" Blakes made on January 24th, follow these links:
Article & Interview with Todd Chance at MLive
Brookwood Elementary video and article
Buckets on WOOD TV's "Daybreak"
Buckets on WZZM's "Take Five"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Van Andel Arena Donates Gaither Christmas Homecoming Tickets To US Veterans

On Dec. 15, 2012, Van Andel Arena played host to the Gaither Christmas Homecoming Tour, featuring the award-winning Gaither Vocal Band with special guests crooning the best Christian-themed holiday carols.

But Van Andel Arena also played host to a few more special guests that evening.
Having reached out to the Veteran Tickets Foundation, the holidays were a perfect time for the Van Andel Arena staff to donate a night of fun and relaxation to veterans in the West Michigan area. Forty free tickets were designated to the organization and veterans from the Army, Air Force and Navy were all recipients of admission to the family-friendly show.

With the slogan “Give Something To Those Who Gave,” The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization aimed at expressing gratitude to veterans by working with venues and shows across the country to provide free tickets to great events.

Per the Veteran Tickets Foundation website, “When our Military and Veterans go to an event for free, we want them to feel a collective “thank you” from all of us to all of them.”

The foundation has been able to provide free tickets to NCAA Div. I basketball games, NFL games, Disney On Ice, comedy shows and concerts among many others. To date, the foundation has given out 509,382 tickets in all 50 states and Washington DC. More information can be found at

Van Andel Arena along with the Gaither Christmas Homecoming Tour were proud to offer local veterans a joyous evening.

But this wasn't the first time our staff helped make contributions to our heroes in service. Last summer, $5 from tickets sold to the July Trace Adkins performance at DeVos Performance Hall was pledged to The Wounded Warriors Project.

The Wounded Warriors Project raises awareness and enlists the public's aid for the needs of injured service members.

In the end, these initiatives are the least we could do for their service. We hope to work with the Veteran Tickets Foundation and Wounded Warriors Project again whenever possible.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Generous Patrons Help Grant Wishes For Make-A-Wish Foundation Through “Round Up at The Rink”

Savor…Grand Rapids, Van Andel Arena’s exclusive food and beverage provider, teamed up with the Grand Rapids Griffins over the Thanksgiving weekend to raise money as part of a state-wide initiative headed by 14-year old Novi high School student, Ryan Rabinowitz. Van Andel Arena hosted the “Round Up at The Rink” event, where gracious Griffins hockey fans contributed by way of rounding up their concessions bills to the nearest dollar.

Together, West Michigan’s best hockey fans donated $624.18 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helping to grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

The whole idea for Round Up at The Rink was brought to our attention by Rabinowitz, who first worked with Make-A-Wish when he was in the fourth grade.  A longtime hockey player, Rabinowitz’s plan is to contact more than 100 arenas/rinks in Michigan and ask them to host a Round Up at The Rink event to help make wishes come true for children with life threatening medical conditions. Rabinowitz’s goal is to reach $5000 and help grant an entire wish.

The Griffins beat the Chicago Wolves on Friday, September 23 to extend their then-winning streak to seven games.  The game also hosted the Griffins’ annual Teddy Bear Toss, where fans brought new store-tagged teddy bears or stuffed animals to throw on the ice when the Griffins score their first goal. All stuffed animals were to go to Hug-A-Bears of Kent County. The Griffins also matched up against the Milwaukee Admirals two days later, losing the contest on Sunday, September 25.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Van Andel Arena Participating in High Schooler’s “Round Up at The Rink” Fundraiser

Savor…Grand Rapids, Van Andel Arena’s exclusive food and beverage provider, is teaming up with the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Make-A-Wish Foundation for participation in a special “Round Up at The Rink” event. Patrons attending any of the Griffins’ games this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend can contribute by rounding up their concession bills to the nearest dollar. The excess amount will go towards the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Patrons are encouraged to contribute during the Friday, November 23rd and Sunday, November 25th Griffins games at any of the arena’s concession stands and/or the Fifth Third Bank Vault. The holidays are known as a time for giving to those in need. What better time than Thanksgiving weekend to participate in such a great cause.

The whole idea for Round Up at The Rink was brought to our attention by 14-year old Novi high School student, Ryan Rabinowitz, who first worked with Make-A-Wish when he was in the fourth grade. A longtime hockey player, Rabinowitz’s plan is to contact more than 100 arenas/rinks in Michigan and ask them to host a Round Up at The Rink event to help make wishes come true for children with life threatening medical conditions. Rabinowitz’s goal is to reach $5000 and help grant an entire wish.

The Griffins will take on the Chicago Wolves this Friday at 7pm. It is a $1 hot dog, $1 beer game and is also to the Griffins’ annual Teddy Bear Toss. Fans are asked to bring a new store-tagged teddy bear or stuffed animal to throw on the ice when the Griffins score their first goal. All stuffed animals collected will be donated to Hug-A-Bears of Kent County. Hug-A-Bears serves the community by donating teddy bears to children and families in crisis.

Sunday’s 4pm game will have the Griffins match up against the Milwaukee Admirals. The first 2,500 fans will receive a Griffins poster and puzzle combo as ZOOperstars return to Van Andel Arena for the third straight season. The inflatable mascots will entertain fans in the stands throughout the game and on the ice during both intermissions.

Advance tickets are $14, $16 and $18 in the arena’s upper level, and $18, $22, $26 and $32 in the lower level. (Additional $2 per ticket on day of game.) Tickets available at The Zone (inside Van Andel Arena), all Star Ticket outlets including Meijer stores, charge by phone at 800.585.3737 or at the Van Andel Arena box office 90 minutes before each game.