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Jay Van Andel dies at age 80

Randy Snow
Monday December 20, 2004


Anyone who follows the Grand Rapids Rampage knows that the team plays their home games at the Van Andel Arena. The arena bears the family name of Jay Van Andel, who passed away on Dec. 7, 2004 at the age of 80. To the people of Grand Rapids and southwest Michigan, the name Van Andel is well known. But for those who are not from this area, or may be unfamiliar with the name and its connection to this area, let me shed some light on the man behind the arenaís name.

In 1959, Jay Van Andel co-founded a company called Amway with his lifelong friend, Richard Devos. At the time, the company operated out of the basements of their neighboring homes and sold one cleaning product. Since then it has grown into a multi-billion dollar business which now sells over 450 products and employing 13,000 people in 80 countries around the world. The company headquarters is in Ada, Michigan, just east of Grand Rapids.

Van Andel and Devos were both born and raised in Grand Rapids and graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School. The two even rode to school together in Van Andelís Model A Ford. Devos paid 25 cents a week to help pay for gas. Amway was not their first joint business venture however. In 1949, the two formed a company that sold vitamins and food supplements.

Both men have been very generous over the years, giving back to the community through various charitable foundations. Is it any wonder then that the landscape of the city of Grand Rapids is filled with many reminders of the two men who have given so much back to their hometown? Places like Devos Hall (Concert Hall), Devos Place (Convention Center), the Van Andel Arena, the Van Andel Museum Center and The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

In 2003, the Van Andel Museum even hosted an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There have only been a few places in the entire United States that have ever hosted the Scrolls exhibit, so it was a major event for the city when it came to town.

In 1998, Richard Devosí son, Dan Devos, became the owner of a new AFL team, the Grand Rapids Rampage. In 2001, the Rampage won Arena Bowl XV, which was played at the Van Andel Arena. Dan Devos also owns the Grand Rapids Griffins, a minor league hockey team that plays at the Van Andel Arena as well.

In an era of stadiums and sports arenas with ever changing corporate sponsored names, itís nice to know that, in Grand Rapids at least, a manís name still means something.


 
Randy Snow covered the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League for ArenaFan from 2003-2008. He also covered the Fort Wayne Fusion of arenafootball2 in 2007. From 2004-2008 and in 2010, he was a member of the Arena Football League Writerís Association and, since 2011, has been a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Randy lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan but will travel just about anywhere for a football game or a great football story. He runs the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and hosts a podcast with his son, Adam, called ďThis Week in The World of Football.Ē
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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