Gold plays first game at Van Andel

Grand Rapids Magazine file photo Courtesy Kynda

The Grand Rapids Gold are off and running at their new Van Andel Arena home.

Through six home games at Van Andel, the NBA G League affiliate of the Denver Nuggets is amid a learning curve, according to Gold President Steve Jbara, but given the circumstances, he’s more than happy with the move from the DeltaPlex, where the team played its first eight seasons in Grand Rapids.

“The home opener was a big hit. We all learned a lot,” Jbara said. “It’s a much different building than my staff is used to, but we have nailed it and are putting on a good show.”

The first game at Van Andel on Nov. 10 against the Motor City Cruise — the team that took the Grand Rapids franchise’s spot as the Detroit Pistons’ affiliate — attracted more than 6,200 fans. Of note, a Nov. 25 game in Detroit attracted just over 1,000 fans.

The rest of the games, however, have steadily brought in approximately 2,200 fans.

The Nov. 27 game against the Iowa Wolves, on a Sunday, did draw more than 3,000 spectators. Jbara said the weekend games have been solid and the weeknight games continue to be a challenge. Jbara said some additional promotional offerings might be in the works to help boost weekday game numbers.

The Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, drew a little over 7,000 fans per game last year, good for No. 3 in the league — the Griffins were No. 1 in the league with 8,206 fans per game in 2019.

In the past, the Gold averaged approximately 1,500 season ticket members, but ranked last in the league in walk-up traffic. Jbara said the team still lags in that department so far this year, but understands it is a process getting the city to understand the new home.

“We’ve seen a slight uptick, not massive amounts yet,” Jbara said. “The vast majority of our walkups in the past have been after Christmas, so maybe people just start thinking hoops in January, February and March.”

Jbara also said the team is enjoying the upgrade in facilities. He said the staff at Van Andel has been top notch, from ushers and security to the people working on the changeovers from ice to basketball court.

There have been a few stretches of games where there was not a transition between games and the Gold could practice on the game court.

Overall, players, staff and Denver Nuggets officials have raved about the quality of venue and that is helping the long-term potential of the relationship.

“They’re so comfortable with it here now,” Jbara said of the Nuggets and having players develop in Grand Rapids. “From that standpoint, our hybrid agreement couldn’t be any better.”

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