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MLive reporter fails to see or explore the serious conflicts of interest when reporting on the proposed soccer stadium, public money and the DeVos family

September 19, 2022

Last week, we wrote about the proposed Soccer stadium that is deeply entrenched within the control of the DeVos family.

In that article, we discussed the recent land purchase by Dan DeVos, under the name of  DF Fox Ventures LLC. The land in question is where the current Big Boy restaurant currently sits, which would be the southern end of the potential stadium property.

We also discussed how the DeVos family has so many other connections to those who will make the decisions and have a say in the financing of this project – Grand Action 2.0, the Downtown Development Authority, the Right Place Inc., etc.

Since then there have been two additional news stories on MLive that are worthy discussing, particularly as it relates to the possible Soccer Stadium being located in downtown Grand Rapids.

The first article, from the past Friday, was an MLive article focused mainly on all of the submissions for how to spend the $127.6 million in COVID-19 stimulus funding that Kent County received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In that article, the reporter spends several paragraphs discussing the fact that the, “Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority made the request for assistance for the proposed $125 million stadium.” 

Now, the ARPA funds can only being used to cover costs incurred by existing businesses or projects, not one that is only on paper at this point. The fact that the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, which also has a DeVos employee and two politicians who have received DeVos campaign contributions, should tell you something about how shameless these people are. Everyone who submitted a proposal to access ARPA funds being administered through the county knew exactly who was eligible for those funds. The fact that the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority submitted a request to use ARPA funds for the soccer stadium simply demonstrates that they were hoping that their submission would be considered, since those making the decisions are always influenced by money. 

The second MLive article, which was from yesterday, is more directly about the proposed downtown Grand Rapids soccer stadium, with the headline, As group eyes Grand Rapids soccer stadium, questions swirl over housing, neighborhood impact. Housing concerns are high on the list for many people in this community, so MLive was right to look at this issue as it relates to the proposed soccer stadium. Unfortunately, the MLive reporter did not explore the housing consequences very far. 

For instance, there were two westside neighborhood association representatives cited in the story, but only one of them addresses housing. The spokesperson from the West Grand Neighborhood Organization did make the comment, “We desperately need housing, so I’m not sure how a soccer stadium’s going to accomplish that goal.” However, the MLive reporter does not explore the implications of the desperate need for more housing, particularly affordable housing. There was also no discussion about building the proposed soccer stadium in the area behind the YMCA, which is primarily parking. If the soccer stadium goes there, it will displace most, if not all, of those surface parking spots, which means they will need room for more parking. This gets more complicated, since GVSU owns most of the other parking spaces in that area and is not likely to give up those spaces. In addition, building a soccer stadium might raise the cost of property taxes in the area, which could negatively impact home owners and cause an increase in rental costs as well. 

Unfortunately, none of these issues are explored. Instead, the MLive reporter gives lots of print space to comments from Grand Action 2,0 and to Richard Winn, who is chair of the board of directors for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The MLive reporter did mention that Richard Winn is the president of AHC Hospitality, which is owned by the DeVos family, but they did not mention that Winn and another DDA member, Greg McNeilly, have been longtime political operatives for the DeVos family. Even more egregious is the fact that the MLive article did not mention that Richard Winn sits on the board of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, which just submitted a proposal to use COVID relief money, public money, for the proposed soccer stadium. This all screams of conflict of interest!

Once again, we see how local news reporting, which is critical in this instance around the current housing crisis and the tremendous influence of the DeVos family, fails the public by not exploring the connections and the numerous conflicts of interest. Instead, the MLive reporter finds too many people who happily regurgitate messages about how wonderful a new soccer stadium would be for downtown Grand Rapids. As is generally the case with the local commercial news media, they fail to ask who will really benefit from a new soccer stadium. Or maybe they want us to just forget about all of this non-sense and enjoy ArtPrize.

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