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Crain's Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

Crain’s Grand Rapids Business senior writer Mark Sanchez talks about a new state law taking effect Friday designed to protect healthcare workers from abusive hospital visitors – and – Grand Action 2.0 has filed its soccer stadium construction plans with the city of Grand Rapids. What happens next?

Mark Sanchez: Basically, another step in the process and a significant step in the process. This is a story my coworker, Kate Carlson did Friday last week, Friday afternoon. Grand Action 2.0 filed a formal construction plans with the city of Grand Rapids for an 8,500-seat soccer stadium, $108 million investment on the west side. Yes, it will go on that parcel in behind the former Big Boy. And this is a project that's been talked about for a few years, a couple years since it was first envisioned. We've been writing about it, covering this, and looks like it's going to happen. This is an important step in the process to now get these plans filed with the city so the city can go over and take a look at them and review them. And props to the folks at Grand Action. They've been having a series of neighborhood meetings over the last number of weeks that they've really been talking to folks in the neighborhood, refining the plans. And yes, they are well aware that there's a traffic issue there, especially with that traffic coming off the freeway on the road there. And how does everything fit together? Patrick, we've talked about this project many times on the show and here it is. Here is some definitive actions that this project is going forward and there are plans now filed with the city to really bring this project about.

Patrick Center: $108 million for the conceptual design stage and estimates for the facility. That's according to the planning application. It's a big project. Of course, cost does shift. Design will shift, but we have at least a sense of what this will look like. There are renderings and there's even discussion within that filing of materials that will be used.

Mark Sanchez: It's interesting reading through that and what Kate wrote about this is materials just you know putting together that whole business plan and who builds it? Who does it? Who does the work? The materials used and how it fits into that neighborhood? All to come about during this now review process by the city. There is parking available. You may have to walk to it a little bit, but it's a pretty close walk to the core area of downtown. And again, I can't stress this enough that this is a process and this is a big, big step in that process.

Patrick Center: We will find out more of the Grand Rapids City Planning Commission is scheduled to consider this request and that is March 28th. So, we'll learn much more then. Also involved in this, as mentioned, Grand Action 2.0, they're the organization that has submitted the plans. Also doing quite well in Crain's Grand Rapids Business Newsmakers Awards.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, we had our annual Newsmakers of the Year Award over at Meijer Gardens on Tuesday morning and Grand Action 2.0 was our big winner in the top category as Newsmaker of the Year for these projects. Especially the amphitheater along the riverfront that going forward and then our CEO publisher, Casey Crain, had a good conversation with Carol Van Andel, who's a co-chair of Grand Action 2.0 and really talked about first, we do need to raise some money. So, folks are interested, you know, you've got Acrisure that provided a little while back, $30 million to sign as a sponsor for the amphitheater. So yeah, there's some money to be raised, but she talked about just the process and how Grand Action goes about its work and remember the original Grand Action was the organization behind Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place, the medical school, the downtown market. So, it's an organization with a track record of accomplishment and there are two big projects here now with the amphitheater and soccer stadium that it's the first time they've taken on two major projects at the same time. So, it's again a process. And there could be a third. One of the things Carol Van Andel said at our event yesterday was, there's a third big project coming. She wouldn't give any clues. She wouldn't give any hint. Just kind of a little teaser to keep an eye on what they're doing and keep an eye on their progress because there is indeed a third big project in downtown envisioned and we'll see that hopefully unfold in the near future.

Patrick Center: We could speculate, but we should probably hold back.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, we could, but you're right. Uh, prudency says we say, maybe I want to be a little careful with our speculation. It's again, it's an organization with the good track record of accomplishments. So, it'll be interesting to see what they come out with, whether it's in the near term, as I said, or this is a longer-term project in the, in the months or even years ahead, we'll see what they come out with. But this is a group that, uh, it does big bold projects and it's got a track record of getting them done.

Patrick Center: We're talking with Crain's Grand Rapids Business Senior Writer, Mark Sanchez. Coming Friday, a new state law takes effect. Its underpinnings really date back to the pandemic.

Mark Sanchez: To the pandemic and actually well before it just simply accelerated and got a lot worse in the pandemic. And this is basically assaults occurring in hospitals, verbal abuse, physical abuse, assaults, batteries occurring in hospitals and ERs. And it really grew exponentially early in the pandemic. Last year, the state legislature enacted a couple of new laws and they take effect here on March 1st, basically doubling the penalties. If you lose your cool in the ER, if you're a family member of somebody in the ER or visiting somebody in the hospital and you lose your cool and lose control and you strike out and lash out, the penalties have doubled against you. And the interesting aspect of these laws is they don't apply these higher penalties, do not apply to patients. Now, if a patient lashes out and assaults that nurse, the doctor, whoever, yes, they are still subject to criminal prosecution if there's a police report filed and charges filed. But the double penalties, the heightened penalties are for folks, generally the visitors, family members who lash out. And, you know, Patrick, I write a lot about healthcare and it's just really been disheartening the last few years to hear some of these stories from folks who are healthcare professionals about just what they've had to endure. Not only does, you know, remember how bad it was four years ago and then later in Grand Rapids, it got pretty bad at one point, but just now they've become kind of victimized. They've become the target of people who just lose control and let their emotions get out of control. And they lash out and I've talked to folks who have been spit on, they've been punched, they've been kicked, they've been pushed, they've had objects thrown at them. The folks at Trinity Health in Grand Rapids will tell stories about a colleague there who had to have facial surgery. She was assaulted by a person there at the hospital and needed surgery to repair some fractured bones in her face. So, this is a real problem with healthcare, people lashing out and the hope is that these heightened penalties, these doubling of the penalties, and then hospitals have to post signs across the facility saying, hey, assault's not part of our job, guys. You assault a nurse or a healthcare worker there are double penalties now. The hope is that it just brings awareness and will get people to just stop that behavior and think twice about controlling their emotions and that ER and not lashing out at people.

Patrick Center: And this comes at a time when hospitals are experiencing a nursing shortage.

Mark Sanchez: Absolutely. There is an acute nursing shortage in healthcare today and it's getting worse. And a lot of nurses have left the profession during the pandemic. They're burned out. This is one of the top reasons cited on why they're burned out. The physical and verbal abuse they've had to tolerate. And again, the hope is that this generates awareness and gets people to just think twice about when they're getting emotional and they're getting out of control. But you're right, it's an issue that has contributed to this nursing shortage because who wants to work in an environment when they're unsafe or they feel unsafe? Nobody. It's a big issue in healthcare that's gone mostly under the radar, but now with these new laws taking effect here this week, it's something you're going to see a lot more attention to on the healthcare side.

Patrick Center: Crain’s Grand Rapids Business Senior Writer Mark Sanchez. Thank you so much.

Mark Sanchez: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.