3/22/2023: Downtown arena is a go

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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It’s official. Planning for a downtown arena and event center is underway. Also: The county is taking steps to make sure the arena project has positive effects on minority residents. And Kalamazoo will participate in a tornado drill today.

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It’s official: Arena to be built downtown

Plans to build an arena and event center in downtown Kalamazoo have been discussed for decades, but as of Tuesday those plans are officially moving forward. The Kalamazoo County Commission last night agreed to go into negotiations with Catalyst Development Co. over the purchase of land in downtown Kalamazoo. Plans call for building a 320,000 square foot arena and event center on a four-block area on Kalamazoo Avenue between Westnedge Avenue and Park Street. The total price tag could be as much as $200 million, but developers say none of that money will come from taxpayers.

The event center complex, as it’s envisioned right now, would be a big one. Plans call for an ice hockey rink, basketball courts, a multi-purpose space, the arena itself, and of course lots of parking. The building would be able to seat 6,500 for sporting events and between 7,000 and 8,000 for concerts. Jonas Peterson, the CEO of Southwest Michigan First, said they expect it to have a major impact on the area. “Over 548,000 annual attendees are estimated. That supports 36,000 hotel room nights,” he said. “And this next one’s a big one: $54 million of economic output.”

Leaders in Kalamazoo are already championing the project. Kalamazoo County Board Chair John Taylor, Vice Chair Tami Rey, and Vice Chair Pro Tempore Jeff Heppler issued a formal statement. “We are excited to see this project come together and watch our community reap the benefits,” they said. Jane Ghosh, the president and CEO of Discover Kalamazoo, said it would be a big benefit to Kalamazoo tourism. “People who come for events will discover our fabulous restaurants, unique shops, and world-class attractions,” she said.

Downtown arena could be a ‘game changer’

“The event center is an absolute game-changer for Kalamazoo and our entire region,” said Aaron Zeigler, president of Zeigler Auto Group and board chair for Southwest Michigan First. The impact of a downtown Kalamazoo event center will undoubtedly be huge, but there is a question of who it would impact and in what way.

Kalamazoo County leaders said they want to make sure the impact is positive for people living in the adjacent Northside Neighborhood and for people of color in general. As a part of negotiations, the developers have agreed to a $6 million grant that would go to the Northside Association for Community Development. That could be used “to provide grants to residents, enhance housing, the arts, open spaces, entrepreneurial efforts, and such other programming goals as may be identified by NACD,” said Mike Elliston of Catalyst Development Co., the company behind the project. The developers have also committed to doing workforce training with minority communities and reserving 20% of concession space for Northside residents.

More News You Need To Know

Statewide tornado drill today

This week is Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week, according to Michigan State Police. As part of that, Kalamazoo will participate in a statewide tornado drill at 1pm today. The National Weather Service estimates that Michigan experiences an average of 15 tornadoes each year. In May of last year, a tornado struck Gaylord, killing two people and injuring dozens more. “This drill gives people a chance to make a plan and put it to the test, so we are all better prepared when a disaster strikes,” said MSP Captain Kevin Sweeney. The test will include alerts on radio and TV stations. Kalamazoo will also test its tornado sirens. [WWMT]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

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The Upjohn Family Legacy and W.E. Upjohn Institute – W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
12:00PM 3/22

Jeff Kodish: The Environmental Protection Agency vs. Big Oil – Climate Emergency Month
4:00PM 3/22

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 3/22

A History of the Washington Square Branch Library – Kalamazoo Public Library, Washington Square
6:30PM 3/22

Get On the Map: Be Part of the Homegrown National Park – Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones
7:00PM 3/22

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 3/22

Barrelhouse Acoustic Blues – O’Duffy’s Pub
7:00PM 3/22

Indoor Plant Magic – Climate Emergency Month
10:00AM 3/23

Immanuel Wilkins Master Class – WMU, Dalton Center
2:00PM 3/23

Immanuel Wilkins Presentation – Douglass Community Association
5:30PM 3/23

What the Lady Bears Were Doing: Women, Music and the 1950s – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
6:00PM 3/23

KalaSalon: My Idea – A Guide to Bring Your Vision to Light – Green Door Distilling Co.
6:30PM 3/23

Twin Apocalyptic Threats: The Nexus Between the Climate Crisis and Nuclear Weapons – Climate Emergency Month
7:00PM 3/23

Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival – Miller Auditorium
7:00PM 3/23

On The Town – WMU, Williams Theatre
7:30pm 3/23-25; 2pm 3/26

Becoming Dr. Ruth – Farmers Alley Theatre
7:30pm 3/23-25; 2pm 3/26

13th Annual Women’s Lifestyle Expo – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
12pm 3/24, 9am 3/25

University Symposium: The Future Starts with You – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
1:00PM 3/24

Hip Hop with Speak It Forward – Kalamazoo Public Library, Alma Powell
3:30PM 3/24

Huge Guitar Basement Blowout Sale – Milwood United Methodist Church
4:00PM 3/24

Board Game Night – this is a bookstore | Bookbug
5:00PM 3/24

Board Game Night at Table of Contents – this is a bookstore | Bookbug
5:00PM 3/24

Art Detectives: Secret Pizza Party – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
5:30PM 3/24

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 3/24

Tim. Just Tim. – The Distant Whistle Brewhouse
6:00PM 3/24

Blunder Bus wsg Canned Champagne – Dormouse Theatre
7:30PM 3/24

Morning’s at Seven – Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
7:30pm 3/24-25; 2pm 3/26

Indigo Girls WSG Lilli Lewis – Kalamazoo State Theatre
7:30PM 3/24

Immanuel Wilkins Quartet – Fontana
7:30PM 3/24

The Insiders: Tom Petty Tribute – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 3/24

Tony Fields & Doug Decker – Louie’s Trophy House
8:00PM 3/24

See more upcoming events here.

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