This sparkling hub is generating year-round business (and excitement!)
With its beautiful lakeside location, unspoiled forests and outdoor activities like world-class fishing, Muskegon Lakeshore attracts visitors from around the world. Now, a stunning new convention hub is bringing those visitors back year-round and boosting local and regional business as well.
Opened in April 2021, the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center is the manifestation of a longstanding vision by local business and civic leaders. And despite the pressures of building and launching during a pandemic, the convention center in Muskegon is already a breakaway success.
“The decision to investigate the convention center was prompted by the desire to build on Muskegon’s momentum over the last decade and make the community even more of a year-round destination for groups, businesses and travelers,” says Jon Rooks, associate broker and owner of Parkland Properties of Michigan, which operates the new center and was part of the public-private partnership that also included city and county government and a naming sponsorship with VanDyk Mortgage Corp.
A 2016 review of an earlier study affirmed the need for a convention center and predicted an estimated $10.6 million economic impact on the community annually. The $24 million, 64,000-square-foot center was financed by a voluntary accommodation tax on Muskegon hotel rooms.
“The accommodation tax is nominal, so it does not impact the visitors, and it makes it so that there are no public tax dollars going toward the project,” Rooks says.
The design of the center is striking and unusual for this type of facility. Progressive AE, a national architecture and design firm from Grand Rapids, was enlisted to design the center and given specific direction that it should reflect the story of Muskegon while also reflecting the best of modern design trends for convention centers.
“We felt it was necessary to provide homage to our past, while also telling the story of where we are going,” Rooks says. “Our community has a rich history. In the late 1800s, we were home to some of the largest lumber mills in the world. By mid-century, we were one of the largest manufacturing hubs providing products to all corners of the globe. Today, we are known widely for our award-winning beaches, scenic forests and bountiful fishing.”
Plenty of Light
The resulting design features sweeping lakefront views, tall windows that permit spaces to be light-filled and airy, a variety of meeting spaces, flexible ballroom space, patios, and state-of-the-art audio, visual and data capabilities.
The center is ideally situated, connected to both the newly renovated Delta by Marriott Hotel and the Mercy Health Arena. More than 20 restaurants and bars are located within walking distance of the center, enabling guests to easily enjoy a post-meeting social life.
“Being in a brand-new building meant everything was flawless,” says Larisa Draves, executive director of the Michigan Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, which held its annual convention at the center in August 2021. “We had two sections of the ballroom for general sessions, classroom-style with a desk, but spread out and socially distanced. The third section was set up for our meal functions. They worked very hard to accommodate us, and we had a lot of very favorable comments.”
About the Convention Center
Square footage of total meeting space
Square footage of pre-function space
Total breakout rooms available
While COVID-19 had a major impact on 2021 bookings, causing up to three-quarters of its planned events to be postponed or canceled, future bookings for 2022 and years beyond are very healthy, Rooks says. In 2021 alone, 11 meetings filled the center.
One particularly welcome aspect of the center is its availability for local businesses, organizations and individuals who want to host smaller business and social events, from small meetings to birthday parties and weddings, Rooks says.
“Our facilities are unlike anything that we have seen, and when they are coupled with our bustling downtown entertainment district, and proximity to leisure and recreational activities, meeting planners can be rest assured that their attendees will have an incredibly unique and special experience,” Rooks says.