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by Kevin VanAntwerpen |

door or turn our backs on them. They’re always going to be the bulk of our business. But to stay alive and improve, we need to expand.” Meanwhile, across town, Grandville

Avenue’s Intersection is also undergoing extensive changes. While the club filed for bankruptcy last year, adoption by a new par- ent company gave the venue a second chance. “The Intersection is already established in

the community as a leader in live music,” said General Manager Scott Hammontree. “I want us to stay that way.” This year, the venue is undergoing major

The Orbit Room’s remodeling is already in progress. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ORBIT ROOM

Old Grand Rapids venues get facelifts, new ones being born

industry feel the pain, but local artists and venues felt it more intensely. But instead of boo-hooing the losses in 2010, local venue owners are looking forward to a better and more exciting 2011 with big plans in store. Two years ago, when a company called


Blue Cap Promotions (which organized the recent appearance by B.o.B. at Fifth Third Ballpark) hosted a boxing event at the Orbit Room, a seed was planted. Not long after, venue owner Don Dorshimer entered talks with Blue Cap about a partnership. “We had been approached by a lot of dif-

ferent people who had made similar offers,” said Orbit Room General Manager Ted Smith. “These guys really seemed like the only ones

AST YEAR WAS ROUGH FOR the music industry. Bono hurt his back, Christina Aguilera canceled her tour, and unless you wore meat as a dress to an awards show, you really didn’t have a fighting chance at selling out venues.

Not only did the bigwigs of the music

that were the right team for us to work with. They were the guys that knew Grand Rapids, knew the market, and knew our potential.” Blue Cap Promotions told the Grand

Rapids Press last year that the partnership was part of an “exit strategy” for Dorshimer, should he decide to retire. As a result of the partnership, renovations

on the building’s interior are underway. They include a major overhaul to the bathrooms (new tile, new stalls, new plumbing and light- ing, etc.), all new carpet, and all new paint. “I think the cleanliness of fresh carpet,

paint, and tile makes a big impact on people,” Smith said. “I’ve been seeing comments from people on Facebook saying ‘Wow! I went to the Orbit Room the other day, and it’s way cleaner than I remembered!’” But equally as notable as the physical

renovations is the impact Blue Cap Promotions will have on the events held at the Orbit Room, which is typically known as Grand Rapids’ safe haven for metal, rock, and grunge. “Hopefully, we’ll get some variety and expand some of the different music that we’re

“Hopefully, we’ll get some variety and expand some of the different music that we’re going to be bringing. We’ve really wanted to do some comedy, country, classic rock, and some other things that we really haven’t done in the past few years.” —TED SMITH, GENERAL MANAGER, THE ORBIT ROOM

going to be bringing,” Smith said. “We’ve really wanted to do some comedy, country, classic rock, and some other things that we really haven’t done in the past few years.” But metal heads and hard rockers need not

fret. Smith promised that the venue would still offer events for its long-time fan base. “Those people have been supporting the

Orbit Room all along,” Smith said. “We’re certainly not looking to push them out the

physical renovations. The Intersection’s front room – which often hosts small shows at the same time a large show is held in the main room – is currently in the process of major overhaul. A coffee bar in the back is being torn down to create more space, flat screen TVs are being added above the bar, and there’s talks of tearing down a wall that divides the room – which would effectively double the amount of space for the audience. Hammontree also explained that the

Intersection’s main room, which originally had a maximum capacity of 835 people, would be optimized to hold at least 1,200. To do this, the venue is moving the stage back approxi- mately 25 feet. “It’s about attracting the larger acts at the

top of their genre,” he said, explaining that the higher capacity would make the Intersection more attractive to bands with a larger draw. In addition to more space, there will be

new dressing rooms for bands, new tables and barstools, new emergency exit doors (which will also help increase capacity), and brand new concrete flooring to provide, what Hammontree calls, “a cleaner feel.” Still floating around are ideas of a moveable

stage and an outdoor patio for warmer months. On topic with outdoor shows is Frederik

Meijer Gardens’ new addition. In response to the success of 2010’s 15th Anniversary Concert Series (10 of the last 16 shows were sold out), music will soon be a staple of the Gardens. To support a larger concert series, the venue’s amphitheater is undergoing major changes. “We’re essentially stretching out the am-

phitheater,” said Amy Sawade, public relations specialist at the Gardens. “We’re hoping to ex- pand the concert series and attract more people as a whole. Last year, we had our largest lineup ever. I think that could be the new norm for us.” The expansions involve new seating, which

is expected to bring the venue’s capacity up to 1,900 people. Also included are new bath- rooms, a permanent box office, more parking, and more handicapped seating.

Continued on page 40 8 REVUEWM.COM | FEBRUARY 2011 | 37


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