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Published in Economic Development
The concept for a 12,000-capacity amphitheater in downtown Grand Rapids. The concept for a 12,000-capacity amphitheater in downtown Grand Rapids. COURTESY RENDERING

GR amphitheater project lands $30M in state funding with budget deal

BY Friday, July 01, 2022 01:40pm

GRAND RAPIDS — A major economic development project to build a 12,000-capacity amphitheater along the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids has secured $30 million in state funding.

The public funding was included in a budget deal finalized today by top legislative Republicans and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The $30 million accounts for nearly a quarter of the $116 million project that local officials have described as a “linchpin” that could spur further development along the river.

“This is an investment in a public project that will have a tremendous ROI for our city and county,” Tom Welch, co-chair of Grand Action 2.0, said in an emailed statement to MiBiz

“This puts us a long way down the road toward making the project a reality, and we’re very grateful for the support,” Welch added.

Grand Action 2.0 — a group of business leaders chaired by Welch, Carol Van Andel and Dick DeVos — has helped spearhead a massive transformation plan along the Grand River that calls for housing, the amphitheater and other public amenities. The organization in late May named Kara Wood as its executive director. Wood had previously served for 12 years as Grand Rapids’ economic development director.

The latest iteration of Grand Action reconvened in early 2020 to build upon the success of previous economic development efforts, including Van Andel Arena.

“Historically, Grand Action projects have all been funded by a combination of public and private investments,” Welch said. “This $30 million state investment is part of the public funding component and represents almost 25 percent of what is estimated to be a total project budget of approximately $116 million.”

The amphitheater is in some ways modeled off of Van Andel Arena by potentially serving as a catalyst for bringing more people downtown and spurring additional development via an entertainment venue. 

The project earlier this year cleared key hurdles when city and Kent County officials agreed to move forward with the $24.3 million sale of an 11.6-acre city-owned property along the Grand River that would house the venue.

The broader vision surrounding the 201 Market Ave. SW property includes repurposing about 20 more acres along the Grand River for housing, greenspace, retail and other amenities.

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