Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wrapping up the year with a ribbon

Fans making their way to last week's Stevie Nicks concert probably noticed something new on the front of the arena.

The holiday season has arrived once again which means Van Andel Arena has itself wrapped in more than just a busy schedule of events. A giant, red ribbon has been installed on the face of the arena to celebrate the holidays.

This will be the third season the ribbon, decked out in many red lights to shine a bright and stunning display throughout the night, has been installed on the arena. It is 8 feet wide and spans across the front of Van Andel Arena, reaching 300 feet all the way across.

As it has the previous three years, the ribbon will remain displayed on the arena throughout the holiday season.

In lieu of a tree, arena staff decided to do something a little different to celebrate the holidays in 2014 by installing the ribbon. Christmas DĂ©cor by Lakeshore Lighting built the ribbon for the arena and installs it each year.

The ribbon being installed this November.

It seems some fans have already taken notice of the ribbon's glowing return to downtown:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place executives nominated for industry awards

Garth Brooks at Van Andel Arena on May 12, 2016
This December, Venues Today magazine will be presenting its “most prestigious award,” the Hall of Headlines, with SMG receiving a record 14 nominations, including four executives from Grand Rapids. The categories featured in the nominations include News, Bookings, Operations and Tech, Marketing, and Concessions with SMG nominated in all 5 categories.

Rich MacKeigan, General Manager for SMG at Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place was nominated for bookings for breaking multiple venue records including Garth Brooks’ record for most tickets sold for a single engagement and Paul McCartney’s record for gross ticket sales for a single event.
Hilarie Szarowicz, Director of Marketing at Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place was nominated for hosting a Facebook promotion encouraging people to share their favorite event memory and/or photo using hashtag #MyVAA20 in honor of the 20th Anniversary of Van Andel Arena. The promotion was intended to build awareness of the arena’s 20th anniversary while capturing user content for use in future marketing materials. The campaign resulted in 41,599 people reached, 1,300+ memories (comments) posted, 844 reactions and 118 shares.

In the Concessions category, Jeff Dubin, Director of Food & Beverage for SAVOR at Van Andel Arena, was nominated for introducing a new take on the everyday salad bar called a “Living Salad Bar” for the bands, staff and crew of the “San Francisco Fest Tour,” featuring rock bands Journey, The Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason Aug. 2, 2016.

"Living Salad Bar"
The Living Salad Bar featured several types of lettuces and kales with all of the typical salad ingredients, with the exception that the lettuce is still alive. In order to provide the freshest salad possible, staff and crew snip their lettuce fresh off the plant before placing it on their plate.

For the Operations and Tech category, SMG’s Eddie Tadlock, Assistant General Manager at DeVos Place, was nominated for efforts to decrease energy usage by 6.03 percent by installing new equipment and reducing wasted resources resulting in the venue finishing second in the 2nd annual Michigan Battle of the Buildings Energy Summit.

In total, 14 SMG executives were nominated across all five categories of the awards. Other SMG executives nominated are listed below.

Bookings category:
  • Leonard Bonacci, Regional Vice President at University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AZ 
  • Lynn Carlotto, General Manager at Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario, Canada 
  • Jerry Goldman, Assistant General Manager at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN 
  • Jeff Nickler, General Manager at the BOK Center in Tulsa, OK 
  • Chris Semrau, Assistant General Manager at the Denny Sanford Premier Center, in Sioux Falls, SD 
Marketing category:
  • Josh Kesler, Marketing & Sales Manager at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville, KY 
  • Steve Poremba, Director of Marketing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, PA 
  • Meghan Doyle, Director of Marketing at the BOK Centre in Tulsa, OK 
Concessions category:
  • Mark Anderson, General Manager and Vice President of Premier Food Services in Del Mar, CA 
News category:
  • Eduardo Cajina, General Manager at the Coliseo of Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Monday, October 3, 2016

Van Andel Arena’s Richard MacKeigan named among concert industry's elite on Billboard’s Top Arena Managers list

SMG Regional General Manager Richard MacKeigan has been a vital part of putting Grand Rapids on the map in the concert industry for the past 18 years and his work is not going unnoticed. The September 24, 2016 issue of Billboard magazine includes the list of Top Arena Managers chosen for “their leadership of the venues that dominate Boxscore rankings,” and MacKeigan is mentioned among the 10 listed for arenas with capacities between 10,001 and 15,000.

The magazine mentions Van Andel Arena’s 20th anniversary and some of the larger shows that have come to Grand Rapids recently, including Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks, Elton John, and Kanye West.

“We have consistently fought above our weight class when it comes to concerts and their success,” says MacKeigan in the piece.

MacKeigan, a native of Canada and father of three, came to Grand Rapids in September of 1998 as SMG General Manager. He has been at the forefront of shaping the entertainment industry in Grand Rapids with financial, marketing, booking and operational responsibility for Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall.

“This is a reflection of everyone in Grand Rapids. The community has supported us for 20 years and allowed us to continue to grow and bring in some of the biggest shows touring today,” MacKeigan said of the ranking. “The Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority (CAA) placed their trust in SMG and our local staff, and we have worked hard in partnership with our SMG Corporate staff to be sure promoters, agents, managers and artists continue to have Grand Rapids at front of mind when they are planning their shows.”

Van Andel Arena Tops List of North American Venues
The Boxscore rankings, which are the determining factor in the Top Arena Managers list, show Van Andel Arena as the top ranking venue in North America with a capacity between 10,001 and 15,000. The Grand Rapids arena ranks as #5 worldwide and joins Intrust Bank Arena (#6, Wichita, Kansas) as the only other SMG-managed venue on the list. SMG also manages Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, which appeared at #4 worldwide for venues with a capacity above 15,000.

The Boxscore ranking lists venues by size and total gross ticket sales between November 10, 2015 and July 18, 2016. Van Andel Arena’s #1 North American ranking comes behind a reported $13.4 million in gross ticket sales from a wide-ranging set of shows. During this period, the arena saw huge sales from sold out and near-sold out shows such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Zac Brown Band, Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, Elton John, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire, twenty one pilots and Def Leppard, as well as a six-show run from Garth Brooks that broke venue attendance records. The sellouts and huge crowds continue a trend that the arena has enjoyed since first opening its doors, proving to promoters again and again that Grand Rapids is a must-play destination when routing their artists’ tour schedules.

The momentum has continued since then with programming growing in both diversity and size. Van Andel Arena recently hosted one of the largest productions to date with Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” on September 27, and Paul McCartney set an arena record for gross ticket sales from a single event when his “One on One” Tour made a stop in Grand Rapids on August 15.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kanye West Concert One of Biggest Productions in Van Andel Arena History

Following through on the promise of going big for the 20th anniversary, last night’s Kanye West concert proved to be one of the biggest productions Van Andel Arena has ever experienced.

With a completely levitating stage and a total grid weight of over 200,000 pounds, the concert had the heaviest production in Van Andel Arena history. The specialized rigging utilized 182 motors and required an extra day to load-in.

The stage was suspended from the ceiling, moved from side to side and end to end over the general admission floor, and tilted to bring Kanye even closer to his fans as he performed suspended above them throughout the entire show. There was absolutely no equipment or staging on the floor, barring a set of speakers lining the perimeter, a set-up that is rarely seen for concerts.

Kanye West "Saint Pablo Tour" at Van Andel Arena - Photo by Jim Hill
“While we certainly have seen bigger concert stages, we’ve never seen a stage quite like this one,” commented Richard MacKeigan, SMG Regional General Manager for Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place. “A show like Kanye’s with a floating stage and nothing but fans on the floor not only pushes the boundaries of what the concert industry is capable of but also what we are capable of as a venue in this community. It was very exciting to have him here in Grand Rapids.”

The Kanye West concert was the latest event showcasing the diversity of programming that SMG staff strives to offer at Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall, bringing in a wide range of entertainers across a variety of genres for the West Michigan community to enjoy.

Between the three venues, Grand Rapids has seen broad spectrum of events, from family shows such as Marvel Universe Live, musical icons such as Paul McCartney and Elton John, R&B and hip-hop superstars such as Lil Wayne and R. Kelly, all-star Christian line-ups in Winter Jam and Outcry Tour, Mexican singer-songwriter Gerardo Ortiz, cultural shows such as Celtic Woman and Shen Yun, Tyler Perry’s Madea On The Run, hard rock groups such as Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed, and Rob Zombie, and many more.

“We’ve been working very hard to have a full schedule of shows that has something for everyone in it throughout the year. These are community buildings, and we want our programming to reflect the entire community,” said MacKeigan. “Being able to bring a show like Kanye’s Saint Pablo Tour to Grand Rapids is a great example of what we have been able to do because of the support of the diverse landscape here.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Paperless Tickets: What They Are & Why Artists Use Them

With word spreading of Garth Brooks coming to Van Andel Arena on May 14th, and the use of paperless or “credit card entry” tickets for select seats, we are revisiting the topic of paperless tickets to explain why paperless ticketing is becoming a popular method for shows and what you need to know if you’ve made such a purchase.

Paperless tickets were designed for fans by Ticketmaster in hopes to cut down on ticket scalpers and allow fans the opportunity to purchase tickets for a fair price. Since the creation of paperless tickets, many artists, such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Michael Bublé and Eric Church, have decided to make all tickets to their concerts paperless.

Eric Church openly expressed the difficulty of fighting with ticket scalpers during a 2014 interview with After nearly 1,000 of his tickets were purchased by scalpers, Church took action and canceled orders where scalpers were selling the tickets for $800-$900.

The reality, however, is that people have been scalping for a long time—altering their approach to modernize the way they make profits.  Recent technology has provided faster ways to get tickets, including automated computer software programs, which allow tickets to be purchased at large quantities. Along with this, we see the issues of pricing becoming unaffordable for fans and the risk of false tickets being sold, all issues that venues, music artists, and promoters have been trying to cut down on. ABC News had even covered a story in 2014 on ticket scalpers, false tickets, and the effects they have on fans. 

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, you will need to bring 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) to the event. When you arrive at the venue, simply show the ticket taker your credit card and ID. The ticket taker will swipe your credit card and a seat locator slip for each ticket will be printed off.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, what if I purchased tickets as a gift and don’t plan on attending the show? You will have to accompany them to the venue and show your credit card and ID to gain them access into the event.

For any other questions and concerns or if you’d just like to learn more about paperless tickets, click here

Friday, January 15, 2016

Disney on Ice: Let’s Celebrate!

The celebration is just around the corner, as Disney on Ice makes its way to Van Andel Arena this February. Disney on Ice is an event for both kids and adults, as we see classic characters from the Disney tales we know and love. Whether it’s kicking off the Chinese New Year with Mulan or celebrating Valentine’s Day with the Disney Princesses, this performance will have you on the edge of your seat with some amazing acts as it brings characters from sixteen different stories together for one colossal party.

Within this show you will get to see characters such as Mickey & Minnie Mouse, along with Donald and Goofy as they celebrate an Unbirthday party with Alice and the Mad Hatter, and Lilo and Stitch as they kick off a Hawaiian luau. Explore a winter wonderland with Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Jessie, and don’t miss an appearance from a few of your favorite Disney villains and more in this medley of holidays.

Come and join in on the celebration this February from the 11th to the 14th for “Disney on Ice: Let’s Celebrate” at Van Andel Arena. Celebrate as a group of 15 or more and save $4.00 per ticket for select shows. Order your group tickets here.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Halloween On Ice: A Star Studded Cast

Halloween on Ice brings not only a fun, family-friendly take on Halloween but also a professional and star studded cast. With talented performers boasting histories in and out of the rink, Halloween on Ice takes center stage at Van Andel Arena® on October 30th at 7PM.

Meet the Performers…

Nancy Kerrigan

Nancy Kerrigan is a two time Olympic medalist and United States National Champion. Born in Massachusetts, Nancy began skating at the age of 6. With an impressive figure skating career, Nancy retired from competition after winning a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics. From there, she focused her career on performing in ice skating shows, such as Champions on Ice, Broadway on Ice and Halloween on Ice. Nancy was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2004.

Kurt Browning

Kurt Browning is a four time Canadian Figure Skating and World Champion. Kurt has worn a variety of hats during his years of experience, including choreographing routines and shows (such as Halloween on Ice) and landing a Guinness World Record in 1988 for being the first skater to land a quadruple jump during a competition. Kurt was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and Canada’s Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.

Johnny Weir

Johnny Weir is a three time United States National Champion and renowned name in the skating world. With a unique style to his skating, Johnny began his skating career at the age 12, constantly competing and training and landing difficult movements within his first week of skating. After one week on skates, he could perform an axel, a double axel by two weeks, and a triple jump before the age of 13. After a successful career, filled with eccentric performances, wins and losses, Johnny hung up his skates in 2013 and is now a figure skating analyst for NBC Olympics.

Check out the rest of the skaters that will also be performing in Halloween on Ice and join the
fun on October 30th at Van Andel Arena!

Alissa Czisny, two time United States National Champion
Jozef Sabovcik, Olympic bronze medalist
Akop & Aidas (Akop Monokian & Aidas Reklys), acrobatic and pyrotechnic figure skating pair
Nicole Bobek, United States National Champion
Alex Murphy, Skating with the Stars winner
Navarro & Bommentre (Brent Bommentre & Kim Navarro), United States bronze medalists
Denney & Coughlin (Caydee Denney & John Coughlin), United States National Champions
Shawn Sawyer, three time Canadian National medalist

Friday, July 31, 2015

Spokefly: Keeping Grand Rapids Green!

With Grand Rapids becoming a center of business and culture development, efforts are being made to make it more…green! Sustainability has become a strong focus of development in the city, especially through the implementation of new public transportation. Recognizing the desire for more convenient and green transportation, Spokefly, a bike share program brought by the Spoke Folks, has recently launched in the Grand Rapids community. Spoke Folks brought their love of cycling to the city with this easy to use bike sharing system. So…

What is “bike sharing”?

Bike sharing, according to Spokefly, allows for a cleaner and greener way to commute within the city. Through sharing bikes with others, this form of public transportation cuts back on toxic emissions from cars and promotes a healthier lifestyle while also placing convenient bike stops throughout the city for easy access to businesses downtown. With these locations sporadically placed throughout the downtown area, bike riders can rent a bike for $1 per ride plus $0.15/minute. For example, a 10-minute ride will cost $2.50. The Spoke Folks hope to expand the program to the city’s neighborhoods next year.

How does it work?

In order to use Spokefly, you’ll first need to become familiar with the locations in which you can rent a bike. Download the Spokefly app from the Apple App Store (iPhone) or Google Play Store (Android). From there, you’ll be able to use a map to determine where the closest bike location is for you. From the same app, you’ll be able to pay for rental, unlock a bike and return a bike to a Spokefly location. Once you get a location set, you’ll snap a picture of the bike to the Spokefly app and get the combination needed in order to return the bike.

Is there one near the Arena?

There is a Spokefly bike rack next to Van Andel Arena, towards Ionia Street. There is also one located near the corner of Monroe Avenue and Lyon Street, right next to DeVos Place, for convenient travel to events in both the convention center and DeVos Performance Hall.

Please click to download the app to iPhones or Androids.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mike Epps & Why He Is the “Real Deal”

Mike Epps is a comedic prodigy with a prestigious performance history. Born in 1970, the Indianapolis native is known for roles in popular movies such as The Hangover (Parts I and III), Next Friday and Friday After Next, as well as a starring role in ABC’s forthcoming adaptation of the 1989 film Uncle Buck. Epps has also starred in a variety of comedy shows, including his own Mike Epps: Funny Bidness and Mike Epps Presents: Live from Club Nokia.

Epps’ knack for comedy began at an early age, and he proceeded to perform standup routines in his teenage years. Comedy would become Epps breakthrough occupation after joining the Def Comedy Jam Tour in 1995 and appearing in HBO’s Def Comedy Jam broadcasts. In 1999, Epps was cast in the popular Friday movie franchise to star alongside Ice Cube, and from there, his career would be launched as he continued to be cast in a variety of roles in popular movies and television shows, including the Resident Evil franchise and The Fighting Temptations, alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. and BeyoncĂ©.

Epps has made a name for himself in show business and has grown into a well known comedic and acting talent. He is currently working on a variety of projects, such as his starring role in the Starz series “Survivor’s Remorse,” BET drama “Being Mary Jane” and the Universal feature “Term Life.” He is also in the midst of production for the HBO biopic “Bessie” based on famed blues performer Bessie Smith’s rise to fame, as well as his role as legendary comedian Richard Pryor in the upcoming Lee Daniels biopic.

Be sure to check out Epps’ “The Real Deal Tour” at Van Andel Arena on Saturday, October 31st at 8 PM. Get your tickets here.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Let’s face it, rock concerts are not a night at the symphony and the rules to live by while at the venue are quite a bit more relaxed. However, there is still a code that you should follow while you are at a concert. This goes for any show at any venue.

This is not a new topic, but it is one worth revisiting (as it often is over and over again by various sources). Regardless of how many times a blogger, magazine, or journalist writes an article about concert etiquette, we still hear frequent stories from fans about a ruined concert experience because of the behavior of those around them. Obviously, you need to stay within the law and respect the venue’s policies, but there are also a set of unwritten (and not always agreed upon) rules to keep in mind while you attend your next concert.

Before we ask your opinion on concert etiquette, please allow us to present a few thoughts based on feedback we have heard from fans over the years.

The Sit or Stand Dilemma
This one comes up a lot. You can easily split a concert crowd into two categories: those who like to sit and those who like to stand. For some shows, it’s almost a unanimous mindset leaning one way or the other, but for other shows, there is a gray area that can easily cause issues between patrons.

Our best advice is to look at your surroundings. Are you at a high energy rock concert where everyone else is standing? Then it is probably okay to get up on your feet.

Are you at a low-key performance where most everyone is seated? Then it is probably best to give your feet a rest.

Simply, be considerate of those around you. You wouldn’t want somebody blocking your view and ruining your experience, would you?

Have tickets and/or ID ready
Occasionally, there can be very long lines to get into an event. If you have your tickets, and in some cases I.D. and credit card (for paperless entry), ready when you reach the turnstiles, it will make the entire process quicker and easier for everyone involved. The more time you take fumbling through your belongings looking for your tickets, the more time there is for fans to begin piling up behind you.

Concerts are social events, so it is natural to want to turn to your bestie and show your excitement when your favorite song begins, but try not to go too far. It’s alright to talk to your heart’s desire in between acts, but once the musicians are on stage, do your best to pay attention to the show. You came to see the band perform, not catch up on the latest gossip. If you would rather sit and chat through the entire show, perhaps watching a live concert DVD at home is more your style. There will be plenty of time to discuss the fine details after the final notes have been played. 

Besides becoming the mortal enemy of concert-goers sitting next to you, you might anger the artist to the point of them leaving the stage as well.

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If you were at a live concert and you couldn’t inform everyone you know that you were having more fun than them, were you really there?

In the age of social media, sometimes it can seem as though you aren’t having fun unless you are posting to your social media pages to show just how much fun you are having. We are ever-connected to our devices these days, but much like everything else moderation is key. It’s fine to snap a few pics here and there, send out a tweet or two, or check in with the baby sitter via a quick text, but that bright light of yours can be very distracting. 

Also keep in mind that some shows will not even allow the usage of phones. The Eagles and Kevin Hart are examples of recent shows that enforced a strict “no cell phone” policy. And tablets? They are almost never allowed in, and we would strongly encourage you not to use them even if they were. (They are huge! You might as well erect a billboard in front of the person behind you while you hold it up to snap some pics.)

Enjoy the moment, use your phone sparingly, and create some memories. You come to see a live show, not watch it through a tiny screen, right? Besides, let’s face it – chances are most of those pics and videos you take with your phone aren’t going to turn out very well anyway. (Pro Tip: Using your flash when taking pics at a concert does nothing for the exposure. That bright light will only travel a few feet directly in front of you. It's best to turn it off when taking some shots at a show.)

Rocking out in your own personal space without completely invading the personal space of the people sitting next to you is a skill. If you are not sure how to do it, watch the veteran concert-goers around you. They know how to ramp up the excitement while toning down the arm-flailing. Furthermore, if you are holding a drink, do not forget that you are holding a drink!

Nobody likes a cold liquid being spilled in their hair or down their back because the person behind them cannot stop sloshing their beverage around while attempting to showcase their moves. This brings us to the next one…

Drink responsibly– don’t spill!
If you are drinking at an event, please drink responsibly. Know your limits and be sure you have assigned a designated driver for the evening. If everyone in your group is drinking, arrange for a friend to pick you up after the show, call a cab, or use services such as Uber to make it home safely. There are no excuses here.

Don’t stand in the aisles
Not only can this be a serious safety issue, but aisles are busy passageways. You standing in the middle of one with your fist in the air while people are trying to get to their seats or back out to the concourse is a major inconvenience. Not to mention, you paid for specific seats, and standing in the aisle may be blocking the view of someone who paid to be in the section you are trying to gain access to.

Concerts are exciting, and we encourage you to display your excitement before, during, and after the events you attend. However, yelling at the top of your lungs the entire time can be a bit excessive and sure to annoy the other fans around you. Definitely express how great the show is with a few exclamations, but remember that while you are yelling, woo-ing, or screaming “FREEBIRD!” after every song (this stopped being funny at least 20 years ago, by the way) both you and those around you probably cannot hear the show everyone paid their hard earned cash to see.

Basically, everything boils down to realizing you are one of many people at a concert and that your behavior could impact the experience of others. Be mindful of your surroundings, nice to your neighbors, and have a great time. We want everyone to have the best experience possible while they are here, and pleasant fan-to-fan interaction goes a long way toward helping that happen.

Now it is your turn. Did we nail it? Did we get it all completely wrong? Do you agree with some of it, but the rest is way off base? Did we miss something? We want to know your thoughts. Tell us in the comments below, and let’s keep this conversation going.