$17 million convention center and renovated hotel will reshape downtown Muskegon & boost economy, area leaders say

An aerial rendering of the $17 million convention center planned for downtown Muskegon.

A $17 million convention center. A renovated L.C. Walker Arena. A rebranded and renovated hotel. New restaurants and housing. Muskegon’s downtown landscape is rapidly changing, and community members will be able to get a glimpse of what the future holds for the city during an Oct. 30 event that’s free and open to the public.

Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson and West Michigan developer Jon Rooks, the president of Parkland Properties, will lead the Oct. 30 event, which will include a tour of the newly renovated arena, a chance to hear about the planned renovations for the Holiday Inn, and information on the incoming convention center. Parkland Properties owns the Holiday Inn. The tour will begin at 5:30pm on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at the L.C. Walker Arena, located at 470 W. Western Ave. in downtown Muskegon.

City officials expect the tour’s three features—the convention center, arena, and hotel—to be major economic players in a downtown that has transformed from a series of empty, unpaved roads following the demise of the Muskegon Mall in 2001 to a bustling commercial and residential center that boasts restaurants, bars, shops, cultural institutions, and more.

A rendering of the Muskegon convention center.

Officials recently unveiled the newest plans for a public/private partnership between the county of Muskegon, city of Muskegon and Parkland Properties that will result in a downtown campus featuring the convention center, hotel and arena. The plans include a $17 million, 45,000-square-foot downtown convention center and a $6 million renovation and rebranding of the 201-room Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor, which will become a Delta by Marriott. Following a $1.7 million renovation, the L.C. Walker Arena debuted to the public at the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ season opener on Oct. 13. The total estimated investment in the convention and exposition campus is estimated to exceed $26 million.

Fans at the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ Oct. 13 season opener.

“The L.C. Walker Arena is an important part of the fabric of our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson said in a press release. “People young and old have great memories of watching hockey and attending concerts at the LC. We feel the addition of the convention center will only enhance our growing downtown and provide new opportunities to host larger meetings, conventions, exhibits, etc. This is a great opportunity to breathe new life into the arena, and ensure that future generations can make similar memories in that building as well as create new memories in our new convention center.”

The convention center will be located on 4th Street, between Western Avenue and Shoreline Drive. There will be entrances to the venue at Shoreline Drive, Western Avenue and 3rd Street. The city plans to vacate 4th Street for the convention center project.

The project’s architecture and engineering firm, Progressive AE of Grand Rapids, the county of Muskegon, the city of Muskegon, and Parkland Properties are currently working on the initial siting and concept design for the convention center.

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The center will be funded with county accommodations taxes and assessments collection from city hotels.

“We are very excited about so many new developments in Muskegon, but especially the convention center,” Rooks said in a prepared statement. “A convention center is the next logical step for our community and we believe this new convention center, combined with the remodeled arena and fully remodeled hotel with a covered parking garage, is only going to accelerate Muskegon’s already fast pace growth, all year-round.”

Now home to a number of conventions and trade shows, Muskegon will be able to draw additional events to the city with this new downtown campus, Muskegon County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth said.

The public/private partnership “will give Muskegon County a boost to businesses development, increase competitiveness in the convention marketplace, and increase business tourism in Muskegon County,” Eisenbarth said in a press release.

Currently, limited space for events in Muskegon has translated to lost business—something that is expected to change with a convention center, said Bob Lukens, director of Visit Muskegon, the countywide convention and visitors bureau. Lukens also noted the emergence of a convention center comes at a time when the city’s downtown, and the region as a whole, is experiencing significant growth—more than $500 million in development projects are now happening in Muskegon.

“With the growth underway now in Muskegon, the decision was made to move forward and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Lukens said in a press release. “We’re excited to bring new visitors from across the state and throughout the country to Muskegon and Muskegon County for their conventions, meetings, and events.”

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Renderings courtesy of the county of Muskegon and Parkland Properties. You can connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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