Convention center opens, setting up Muskegon as a year-round destination

After almost two years of construction and several more in the making, the VanDyk Mortgage  Convention Center is finished and drawing excitement for downtown Muskegon.

“After years of planning, the convention center broke ground in May of 2019,” says Katie DeWeerd, director of sales for Parkland Properties of Michigan. “There was really a lack of meeting and convention space along the Lakeshore on the western side of the state. We saw this as an opportunity to conduct a feasibility study to see if Muskegon would be a good fit for a convention center. There was support for the idea of a convention center in the downtown area that would be best if it was connected to a hotel.”

The building footprint is 37,700 square feet, including 10,000 square feet in the connected adjacent hotel banquet space, which is all under one roof. The main event space is 16,550 square feet and can be broken into five different rooms. 

There can also be up to 13 breakout rooms created within the convention center and hotel space. One of the main spaces is 6,000 square feet and overlooks Muskegon Lake with 14-foot-tall windows, while the main ballroom faces Muskegon’s downtown entertainment district on West Western Avenue and boasts a 26-foot-tall window. 

A year-round destination

In addition, the convention center features an abundance of natural light, which is a rarity in convention centers. It also has state-of-the-art AV technology, including five overhead projectors and drop-down screens. The goal with spaces and views like these is to continue to push Muskegon as a year-round destination.

“We have always been a tourist town and booming with life in the summer months, but having a convention center that has year-round events will help to keep Muskegon a destination all year long,” DeWeerd says. “Many associations and corporations have large conventions during Muskegon’s shoulder seasons in the fall, winter, and spring. Most conferences are two- and three-day events, where the attendees would fill the hotel and stay for a few days. These attendees will have a huge impact on local business by shopping, eating, and drinking at our local establishments.”

This event space will be ideal for conventions, conferences, meetings, trade shows, and larger social events, including weddings, she says. The chefs for Parkland Properties — which are the same as the ones at the Lake House and Walker’s — oversee all food and beverages for the convention center. 

The VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center is connected to the full-service Delta by Marriott Muskegon Convention Center, which offers 200 newly remodeled guest rooms, an onsite restaurant and bar, and a fitness center. The hotel also is within walking distance of the downtown Muskegon social district.

First event

The Muskegon Lakeshore Home, Garden + Boat Show April 16 and 17 was the first event to take place in the new convention center.

“It was a record-breaking show!” says Kristin Knop, Muskegon Chamber of Commerce events director. “The VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center brought our show to a whole new level. We were beyond impressed with the amenities and staff support. The VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center is a wonderful asset for our community and will help put the Muskegon Lakeshore on the map.”

The Muskegon Chamber of Commerce is excited to be able to utilize such a facility from now on.

“The VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center will continue to be a venue for chamber events,” says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce. “The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce is excited for the addition of the convention center to create a stronger, more sustainable tourism industry and provide year-round tourism jobs.”

Read more articles by Kelsey Sanders.