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Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Features New Additions

Expansion project driven by increased attendance and activity

By Kathy Gibbons

Photo by Michael Moran, courtesy of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Visitors to Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park this summer are discovering new and expanded spaces.

According to Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Director of Communications John VanderHaagen, the Grand Rapids’ sculptural and botanical gardens destination has undergone a $115 million “Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love” expansion project driven by increases in guest attendance and programming. The 158-acre main campus features Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; a large interactive children’s garden; bronze sculptures by Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin set in Victorian gardens; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens that include a replica 1930s farm garden; an 8-acre Japanese garden featuring contemporary sculpture; and a 1,900-seat outdoor amphitheater garden that serves as a venue for live entertainment from touring musicians.

Most noticeable among the latest changes is the recently opened Welcome Center. “More than 750,000 people now move through a space originally designed to accommodate an annual attendance of roughly 200,000,” VanderHaagen explains. “The new Welcome Center greatly enhances our guests’ arrival, admission, and orientation experience.”

The new Covenant Learning Center reaffirms Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s commitment to be a go-to resource for cultural education. “At 20,000 square feet, the new center enhances our programming quality and variety,” VanderHaagen explains. “The space promotes interactive learning, fosters creative thinking, integrates technology, and supports a wide range of educational offerings.”

With tram tours being a popular part of the experience for Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park guests, the new Cook Transportation Center provides more covered space and accessibility for those waiting to ride. Also available here are restrooms, along with offices for staff and volunteers.

The amphitheater at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park underwent expansion. || Photo by Michael Moran, courtesy of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater has been expanded to provide more sponsor seating, a new support building with additional food and beverage capacity, and restrooms outside of the gates that are accessible to those waiting to enter the venue, VanderHaagen says.

The new Frey Foundation Plaza ties together the entrances to the Welcome Center and amphitheater, also serving as an outdoor gathering space featuring horticulture and sculpture. “These are the only two places where guests enter Meijer Gardens,” VanderHaagen says. “The conveniently located plaza brings more parking spaces closer to guest entry points.”

The BISSELL Corridor footpath connecting gardens and sculptures at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has been widened to accommodate heavier guest traffic. With that, there’s now a larger footprint for annual exhibitions and greater access to renovated and expanded sculpture galleries. VanderHaagen says the enhanced corridor connects the new Welcome Center on two levels, “creating a seamless integration that will enhance the guest experience from visual and accessibility perspectives.”

An aerial view of the Tassell-Wisner-Bottrall English Perennial Garden. || Courtesy of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Other enhancements include the new Meijer-Shedleski Picnic Pavilion, which expands space for those who want to participate in a favorite tradition of visitors. A new parking lot configuration offers more accessible spaces near the entrance while increasing the number of overall spaces, while new urban and rain gardens control water runoff. In addition, existing and newly acquired sculptures have been installed in such areas as the Tassell-Wisner-Bottrall English Perennial and Volunteer Tribute gardens.

VanderHaagen adds, “Together, these exciting changes will create a new aesthetic for our guests.”