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Kalamazoo Events Center Being Pitched

Several years after a similar proposal stalled, a group is throwing its support behind a new Kalamazoo events center

Southwest Michigan First is looking to build support for a new events center in the city. The proposed Kalamazoo events center is expected to cost $85 million, with a seating capacity of up to 9,000 and the ability to host multiple types of events–including sports, concerts, and other performances.

A similar concept stalled in 2011, when there was not enough support to place a proposed one-percent food and beverage sales tax at bars and restaurants in Kalamazoo County on the ballot. According to Southwest Michigan First chief executive officer Ron Kitchens, multiple sites are under consideration for the proposed venue and the same funding mechanism would factor into the revived proposal. More from

Kitchens has his eye on a few different sites. Possible locations include vacant land on Stadium Drive by Western Michigan University, the lot by the Heritage Guitar factory, which was once home to Gibson, and right downtown, not far from the site initially proposed before plans fell apart due to a lack of support in 2011.

Community leaders first took up the idea of an arena in downtown Kalamazoo in 2003, plans came to a standstill in 2011 after the tax to fund the project failed to make it on the ballot due to a lack of support.

“It was a great idea, the structure was right, the only thing that was wrong before was a national collapse of our economy,” Kitchens said.

Most of the opposition in 2011 surrounded the 1 percent food and beverage sales tax at bars and restaurants in Kalamazoo County to pay for the events center, which is also the funding mechanism proposed is this latest push.

Southwest Michigan First is an economic development organization that is based in Kalamazoo.