Calhoun County

'There's always something going on': Personal touches and flexibility bring events to Kellogg Arena

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series.

Weddings aren’t likely the first thing that comes to mind when people think about the Kellogg Arena, but this past weekend the venue hosted the celebration of a marriage attended by 600 people, says Kelly Walden, sales and marketing manager for the venue.
“We have staples in our calendar and I build around that with community events, concerts, comedy shows, and weddings,” Walden says. “We also have political and religious events,” such as the rally attended by former President Donald Trump in 2019 and the annual Community Prayer Breakfast. “As long as it’s something appropriate, we’ll host it. The ability to host such a wide range of events speaks to the flexibility of the arena that opened in 1981.”
Sporting events, both amateur and professional, make up the bulk of the events booked at the arena. Jay Gladstone, Director of Sales for the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau, says these events include the Michigan High School Athletic Association State Volleyball Championships; gymnastics competitions; and cheer and dance competitions.
“I go to a lot of different trade shows where I meet with people who run sporting events,” Gladstone says. “I take our information and marketing materials and get appointments with people who run gymnastics, basketball or other athletic events and let them know what kinds of services the CCVB has to offer and what we can do for them.”
Kelly Walden is the Sales and Marketing manager for Kellogg Arena.During these discussions, Gladstone mentions the opportunities to provide sponsorships to bring in events and the many “fun” activities available in Calhoun County, including Binder Park Zoo, and Full Blast.
This is how Gladstone was able to woo the Great Lakes Ice Cream and Fast-Food Association’s (GLIC + FFA) to Battle Creek for its annual convention and trade show in 2019. The organization had been holding their event in Lansing. Gladstone says a major selling point was that the arena was connected to the McCamly Plaza Hotel, eliminating the need to commute to get to the convention and trade show.
Since the temporary closure of the hotel to complete a $60 million renovation, guests to the GLIC + FFA event have been staying at the Holiday Inn on Harper Village Drive, Gladstone and his team have set up shuttles and other services to accommodate attendees.
The McCamly Hotel is expected to re-open in late summer 2023. Gladstone says he anticipates an increase in the number of events the CCVB will be able to attract to Battle Creek and Calhoun County once the hotel is fully operational.
“There’s not many places you can find with a 6,200-capacity arena right next door to a hotel. Before the hotel closed, that was a main selling point. You don’t have to go anywhere or drive anywhere and you can walk around downtown and visit all the little shops there.”
However, it’s the added personal touches that also go a long way to bringing organizations and their events people back to Battle Creek.
Branch Gymnastics organizes gymnastics competitions, like this one at Kellogg Arena.“We got the mayor and our state representatives to do a proclamation for the GLIC + FAA. It’s the little things we can do in our town to welcome people that is key to them coming back year after year,” Gladstone says. “We are always doing things to keep these events here and keep the organizers happy.”
In 2023 the arena will have a brand-new sports court for the MHSAA volleyball tournament. 
“That’s the big thing in volleyball. It’s different material than wood. It’s also a huge thing to help bring people in for the gymnastics events,” Gladstone says. “The continuing improvements we’re making help to bring in these events.”
Walden says there’s always going to be some type of improvement or enhancement project going on at the arena. These include a brand-new box office which is expected to be ready next year, updated lighting, and two digital boards that can be used during the various events such as the recent Travis Tritt concert.
The volleyball and gymnastics events, which typically take place on weekends, bring in thousands of people while newer events to the arena like weeklong pool tournaments bring in a steady stream of people during the week, he says.
“We average four events each month. We try to look for multi-day events,” Walden says. “Weekday events are always nice because we’re not quite as busy and you can get good hotel rates.”
Jay Gladstone is the director of Sales for the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau.In addition to the more mainstream events, Gladstone says the arena is finding its niche in unique events featuring bull riding, monster trucks, arm wrestling, and a Renaissance Faire scheduled for 2023. Walden says there also has been talk of securing a fencing event.
September through May are the busiest times for the arena which is booked pretty much every weekend, Walden says. Four full-time employees work with part-time concessions and maintenance staff to make sure events go off without a hitch.
“If we don’t have events, we are turning the arena for upcoming events,” she says. “We also run events during the summer at Festival Market Square and at Friendship Park in collaboration with the city.”
These events include Vibe at Five live music and performances by the Post Band.
“Spring events keep us consistently running. We definitely want to have more concerts and community events,” Walden says.
n this file photo from earlier this year George Pyatt, 13, receives a Pfizer COVID vaccine booster in Kellogg Arena.The events at the arena have a multimillion-dollar impact on the city and the county, she says.
“With a concert, at least half of the people going will eat before or after at local restaurants with some staying in local hotels and shopping at our stores and shops,” Walden says. “A lot of people think if we don’t have a concert, nothing is happening here, but there’s always something going on and something for everybody happening here.”

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Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.