Pinnacle Lands Birch Run

Venue management company takes reins at Michigan expo center

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: August 28, 2017

Birch Run (Mich.) Expo Center will now be operated by Pinnacle Venue Management.

Pinnacle Venue Management has taken over operating duties at Birch Run (Mich.) Expo Center. Owned by GVB Development Group, the new three-year deal hopes to see increased entertainment options.

The 109,000-sq.-ft. multipurpose venue includes two exhibition halls and 15 acres of outdoor space. The center hosts events including trade shows, concerts, sporting events, banquets, corporate events and weddings. Birch Run is located in Saginaw County, a part of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

BREC_-_TheLoft.pngThe Loft is the VIP space at Birch Run (Mich.) Expo Center.

“We’ve been running the expo center in-house since 2001," said Sam Rice, EVP, GVB Development Group. “We’ve done everything we think we can do with our current connections and know-how, and we really want to take the building to the next level; it has a lot of potential and our expectations are higher.”

The building previously had a short stint with SMG management in the early half of the 2000s, which Rice said “did not work out as we hoped.” Pinnacle’s deal involves a fee plus incentives.

The agreement with Pinnacle went very quickly. “We started talks in May and signed the deal last week (in August),” said Rice, who added that there are options in place for further Pinnacle management services beyond the initial three-year period.

The main objective for hiring the management firm was to grow the entertainment event side of the business, said Rice. “We want more concerts, more family shows and more activity,” he said. Birch Run currently hosts around 150 events a year and has 3,000 capacity for concerts.

“Weekend consumer shows are our bread-and-butter,” said Rice. “Our struggle, like many facilities, is weekdays and summers and we expect Pinnacle will do a great job in filling those dates.”

“We are excited about our new partnership with the GVB Development Group,” said Doug Higgons, managing partner, Pinnacle. “With the location of the venue and the available space, it has great potential, and we are eager to get started.  Our team has an aggressive plan for the venue that we know will help to make a positive impact in the community.”

“We have a vision to make the facility much more multipurpose,” explained Higgons. “We have no doubts we can improve the bottom line.”

Higgons said Pinnacle planned to use their relationships in the touring industry to beef up events.

Pinnacle was picked after Apex Marketing Group, which is selling the naming rights for Birch Run, recommended them. “We were very impressed with Pinnacle,” said Rice. “Their main focus is our type of building, which is a small-to-midsize in a secondary market. What they do is right in our wheelhouse and we believe we won’t just become a small fish in their pool of buildings. Pinnacle is a newer company and we think we are getting in on the ground level.”

Rice said they already have several bidders for the naming rights, and he expects a deal to be achieved in the next three to six months. “The sooner the better,” said Higgons.

The building is currently going through a 60-day transition process in which, “they Pinnacle-ize the building,” said Rice, adding that most of the transition process involves evaluating the current staff. Bobby Gendren is the current GM and has been with Birch Run for a year-and-a-half.

Higgons said that Pinnacle will make the staffing decisions in the next three weeks and expects “at least one or two new faces to join the staff” and he envisions the fresh hires to Birch Run to come from the current Pinnacle fold.

Food and beverage is run in-house with no plans for change. “We were impressed with Pinnacle’s food and beverage history, and we’ll go with whatever recommendations they have for our food and beverage program,” said Rice. Higgons said the current plan is to keep concessions in-house and “improve the operations by putting our systems in place.”

Higgons expects to see a new level of activity at the venue by winter. “We’re already out there looking for programming,” he said.

“The industry experience and relationships Pinnacle is bringing to Birch Run is a game changer for the center,” added Rice. “We are ecstatic with our new partnership and know it’s a win-win for the facility and community.”


  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: August 28, 2017