Adding more entertainment to Big Rapids

Marketing class pitches ideas for entertainment spaces downtown

Marketing research students received the opportunity to create ideas for possible entertainment spaces to spice up Big Rapids that would lead Ferris students to explore more of the downtown. 

On Oct. 28, a group of students gathered via Zoom for a focus group session to answer questions about where and how they would ‘hang out’ during a night in the town. The researchers wanted to discover what types of businesses could attract college students the most.  

Ohe researchers asked the focus group questions other related questions like their favorite hobbies, how they plan their nights out, and what entertainment they would like to see in Big Rapids. 

Dr. Clay Dedeaux is the marketing research professor who developed this project for his class because he felt inspired to make a change for students’ involvement off-campus. 

“I am a resident of downtown Big Rapids and immediately noticed a lack of college-themed attractions that are present in East Lansing and Ann Arbor,” Dedeaux said. “The City of Big Rapids Downtown Business Association accepted my offer to survey the students to find out what they would like to see and do within their monthly budget.” 

Dedeaux divided his class of 28 students into seven research teams. The students needed to design various business attractions that would add-on to the downtown area. 

Music and entertainment business senior Lily Snudden talked about how she is ready to utilize the knowledge she gained about marketing research to create potential businesses. 

“This project, in particular, interests me because I think Big Rapids could use a new entertainment space, and working behind the scenes to bring a new business to life in Big Rapids is exciting and makes the class super fun,” Snudden said. 

For each attraction, research students proposed a name, logo, mission, and interior/exterior design. Dedeaux offered his class a chance for creativity while also using a multi-step planning process. 

“The reality of an entertainment complex is positive for the wellbeing of our community of residents, merchants, students today and in the future, and the city for its tax base and ability to attract complementary retail and services,” Dedeaux said. 

During the focus group session, students discussed what they wanted to see in town, like a 24-hour coffee shop, laser tag, or more clothing stores. 

The researching teams wanted to bring something new that students haven’t seen before. One of their criteria was their businesses must be attractive enough to bring an influx of students downtown.   

“I hear students all the time say there is nothing to do in Big Rapids, so I think adding something new that Big Rapids does not have will liven up the town and make this small town more enjoyable for students,” Snudden said.  

Dedeaux and the research students have dedicated their time to make this project a reality. 

“We are working closely with Mr. Josh Pyles, the City of Big Rapids Manager of the Downtown Business Association, to develop a college-themed entertainment zone, which he and Mecosta County Chamber of Commerce can use to recruit potential tenants to operate these businesses,” Dedeaux said. 

The process of creating a new entertainment space has multiple stages. They must find a large enough venue to hold more than one attraction; the recently vacated JCPenney store is an option as well as a large building near the Salvation Army Family Store.  

For this project to happen, the research teams need to know what students want to see. 

Based on the information received from the focus groups, a survey will be crafted and distributed campus-wide to collect more student opinions about what kinds of entertainment they want to add to Big Rapids.