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Soccer stadium generates enthusiasm, parking questions at open house

Posted By: mlive on February 28, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Fifty people attended an open house Tuesday night at Grand Valley State University to learn about the proposed Grand Rapids soccer stadium, an 8,500-seat venue that supporters want to build downtown next to the David D. Hunting YMCA on Pearl Street NW.

The open house kicked off with a presentation from Grand Action 2.0, the private economic development firm leading the project. Officials gave an overview of the project, including how many matches would be held there, the economic impact of the stadium, and the venue’s parking plan.

They also discussed what they learned from the community meetings and focus groups Grand Action has hosted since January, which officials say have been attended by more than 300 people. The stadium is proposed for a 7.3-acre site near the corner of Pearl Street NW and Pearl Street NW Summer Avenue NW.

“I think there’s a lot of excitement for the project,” Kara Wood, executive director of Grand Action 2.0, said after the meeting wrapped up. There have been “really good questions and concerns, certainly ones that we’ve been working on and will continue to work on through the design phase of the project.”

Soccer fans, by and large, support the project, saying they’re excited to see a parking lot owned by the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) transformed into a stadium for the world’s most popular sport.

The business community is also on board. They want to see bars, restaurants and other downtown businesses get a boost from the fans expected to pour into the city for matches and other events at the venue. In addition, they say the stadium would be another community asset that makes Grand Rapids and West Michigan a desirable place to live and work.

But some neighbors are concerned.

Because there are no plans to add additional parking, they are worried about attendees parking on their streets and taking up spots they or their visitors would regularly use.

“Our biggest concerns are going to be parking and traffic flow,” said Margo Johnson, 67, a member of John Ball Area Neighbors, the neighborhood association where the project is located. She said she hopes to avoid traffic that is “so dense, as people are coming and going, that it creates issues for neighbors.”

While no additional parking has been proposed, Grand Action is confident there’s enough spaces to accommodate the project. They will point attendees to what they say are 16,000 parking spaces within a 15-minute walk of the venue. Those spaces include metered street parking, as well as public and private surface lots and parking garages.

“It’s going to be taxing on the system, but the infrastructure is there,” said Bill Culhane, who’s serving as the project’s architect. “We have a lot of parking in downtown.”

Tuesday’s meeting is one of the final community meetings about the stadium before the project goes before the Grand Rapids Planning Commission for a public hearing on March 28. For the project to move forward, Grand Action needs the commission to approve a special land use permit for the stadium.

Beyond that, other work remains too.

Financing for the stadium, which is expected to cost $108 million to construct, needs to be lined up, Wood said. Additional design work and due diligence, including land acquisition, also must be completed. The team that would call the stadium home has not been announced either.

As of now, the 7.3-acre site where the stadium would be located consists of a parking lot owned by the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority that’s used by downtown office workers and others. It also includes property owned by the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

The site also includes the now-shuttered Big Boy restaurant on Pearl Street. The Big Boy property was purchased in July 2022 by Dan and Pamella DeVos for $3.2 million. Earlier this month, they donated the property to the DDA.

Dan DeVos, who is chairmen of the Orlando Magic and co-owner of the Grand Rapids Griffins, was not available for an interview earlier this month to discuss his interest in the site. But family spokesperson Nick Wasmiller said in a statement that the DeVoses acquired the” property because they believed it held tremendous potential for a future community use benefitting West Michigan residents, employees and visitors.”

While much work remains, Wood said she and her colleagues would like to have the stadium open in time for the 2026 World Cup. The event kicks-off in July and will be played in cities throughout Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Soccer fans who attended Tuesday’s open house are eager to see that happen.

“I think it’s good for the economic development of a growing city — it’s another draw to get people here,” said Bobby Charlton, 26, who lives in Grand Rapids and sells market research software for a living. “I’m excited about soccer. It’s another way to separate the city.”

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