In the early 1990s, Grand Rapids city leaders began planning to bring a sports center to the area. They planned to install the venue outside of the city limits. At the time, Dick DeVos was rising through the ranks at family-owned Amway Corporation. He put corporate duties aside and began lobbying city leaders to put the sports area downtown Grand Rapids. Only a few years later, Van Andel Arena became a fixture downtown Grand Rapids. Today, residents and guests alike travel downtown to enjoy sporting events, concerts and other special events downtown Grand Rapids.


Other buildings have since changed the Grand Rapids skyline including convention and concert venue DeVos Place and the Grand Rapids Marriott hotel. The Helen DeVos Children’s Center is also another Grand Rapids fixture, and Grand Rapids now has a street unofficially named the medical mile. DeVos says that it’s all a part of careful city planning. The goal was to ensure that downtown Grand Rapids stayed a vibrant place where people traveled for evening concerts, events and civic gatherings.


DeVos said that the city had to avoid the urban sprawl that occurred when major sports teams left the City of Detroit in order to take up residence in the surrounding suburbs. His efforts led to the creation of Grand Action. Grand Action is a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to ensure that Grand Rapids develops in the best possible way. DeVos went on to serve as CEO of Amway for nearly 10 years.


DeVos and wife Betsy DeVos have put much of their life’s effort into working for change. They donate large amounts to Republican political causes. The school voucher movement is one of their favorite political causes. The two funded a proposal effort in the State of Michigan for adopting school vouchers. The campaign failed, but it has been more successful in other states. Dick DeVos also failed to win the Michigan Governor’s seat in a hotly contested campaign that he eventually lost to Jennifer Granholm. After the loss, DeVos said that he didn’t feel that the public really got to know him and his family until late in the campaign.


The DeVos family hasn’t stopped their contributions to Grand Rapids. Eldest son Rick DeVos founded and now leads an open art competition in the city biannually. The competition, Art Prize, pairs artists with business owners and city representatives in order to install art throughout the city. The public votes for their favorite pieces and art experts also award juried prizes for their favorite entries.


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