Day 21: Van Andel Arena

Detroit has a bunch of large event venues. Between Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Hall, Ford Field, Comerica Park, with the Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Music Energy Center (or Pine Knob as we east siders still call it) in the outskirts, there are plenty of places to hold professional sporting events and superstar concerts.

In Grand Rapids, we only have two venues, but I would say we only have one because the Deltaplex is old and sad and no one wants to go there. But right downtown we have the Van Andel Arena. It’s nearly 20 years old already, but it still seems new to me. It’s big and clean and open. It isn’t the least bit outdated in my opinion.

The entire front of the structure is glass, so the city can see what’s happening inside and guests can see what’s happening outside in the city. It helps you never forget where you are. The glass reflects the image of the nearby buildings. The arena is literally a reflection of the city itself.


I think that’s also true in the figurative sense. Not only does the arena provide somewhere for Grand Rapidians to gather en masse, but it’s also a celebration of collective pride. We’re proud that we have a place that allows us to host big-name acts and major-league events. It’s a gateway to the rest of the world. It brings people to our city who may not have visited otherwise. Once they’re here, they see how great Grand Rapids really is.

But none brings more pride to Grand Rapids than The Griffins, our American Hockey League team (and a farm team for our big brother the Red Wings in Detroit). Two years ago, they won the Calder Cup. Their championship conducted an electric current of energy into the city. That victory put Grand Rapids on the map. We had a winning team, and so we all felt like winners.


It’s a feeling I get whenever I attend an event at the Van Andel. When the lights dim before the hockey game and Griff and Finn, the mascots, come slipping chaotically onto the ice in their 4-wheeler, the crowd screaming and cheering for their team, I feel like a winner.

I graduated from college in that arena. I sat on the floor in a folding chair and looked up at the stands; I saw my family smile at me as I moved my tassel from one side of my cap to the other. I was a winner then, too.

Even when I attend the Monster Truck Show, I still feel like a winner, because that event is available to me. I can always experience something new at the Van Andel Arena.

I love walking in the doors, being behind the glass, uniting with my fellow citizens–local and foreign–and sharing in the pride that we have this space where we can always go to experience something together.


Photo courtesy of [WZZM13](

*To learn more about Van Andel Arena, visit their [website](*