Retirees and former employees of Buick City will be glad to learn that the building that once housed UAW Local 599 has been repurposed into an entertainment center. Unlike most buildings in the Buick City complex, Local 599 was not demolished but remodeled into a major mid-Michigan entertainment location, known as the Buick City Event Center (BCEC). The center joins Lear Corporation, another major development on Buick City property. BCEC is located a few blocks north of the new Lear plant at 812 Leith St., at the corner of Leith and North.
Recently I interviewed Scott Williamson along with Justin Bolin, production manager. They said the following: The building was purchased at auction in 2012 through the generosity and hard work of Patsy Lou Williamson from Patsy Lou Williamson Buick GMC. The center is managed by Patsy Lou and Don Williamson’s son, Scott, age 55.
Scott says, “Our family wanted to bring Flint back, bring activities to Flint and send a strong message in maintaining and recognizing the automotive history and heritage of Flint and create jobs.” Scott graduated from Carman-Ainsworth High School in 1981 and “attended on-the-job training at Professor Don Williamson’s school of hard work.” Scott worked for his dad’s truck bed liner business for 21 years. Why change from the automotive industry to the entertainment business? The building was available and it would create “48 fun jobs” for bartenders, waitstaff, security, and promotions.
It took a full year to rebuild and remodel the interior of Local 599 into a beautiful concert venue with seating for 1,000. There are two full bars to serve alcoholic beverages, six VIP rooms with their own private bars and a VIP area on the main floor with full bottle service. All areas have a full view of the large stage at the front of the main floor. According to Scott, world-class, state-of-the-art sound and lighting have been installed, as well as a dance floor in front of the stage. Entertainers have private dressing rooms away from the crowds with a separate area to meet and greet fans and sign autographs. BCEC is reminiscent of two other entertainment venues, the Magic Bag on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale and City Winery in Chicago. Local residents in the area have toured BCEC and come away with all positive comments.
“We preserved Local 599, once the largest union local in the world. It is still housed in the event center, with benefit and legal services provided for union officials, members and retirees from Tuesday through Thursday,” Scott says. According to MLive.com, all Local 599 records from the strike days in 1937 to 2010 were donated and are being archived at University of Michigan-Flint. While attending Mott Community College, I worked at Buick at night and attended many union meetings and dinners in the now new concert hall. When asked what union retirees would think of loud music being played at their former union hall, Scott says, “Some will appreciate different types of music but keeping the UAW alive will make sense.”
BCEC will offer most types of music: country, blues, rap, hip-hop, classic rock and metal, in addition to comedy acts. The center will also schedule weddings, retirements, bridal showers and private parties.
As to the safety at BCEC, Scott says, “People will be safe before, during and after a concert with security staff both inside and outside supported by a high-tech security system.”
Scott treated Ralph Arellano (advisory board member of the Latinx Technology and Community Center, formerly the Hispanic Technology and Community Center) and me to a Larry McCray blues concert, a show with a full house. The show opened with Thornetta Davis, Detroit’s Queen of the Blues. The high-end sound system proved capable of handling Davis’s strong voice and McCray’s loud guitar riffs, as the dance floor was packed for both shows. Scott is a very attentive owner, and he and Justin Bolin both checked on our table numerous times to make sure we were happy.
It is truly a Williamson family business, as other family members are involved in all aspects of BCEC. In fact, Neuar Premium brand vodka is featured at BCEC. Neuar is a gluten-free vodka made entirely from non-GMO corn, developed by a Williamson family member and made and bottled in Lansing.
Local 599 is open for business inside the event center from Tuesday through Thursday and can be reached at 810-238-1616, ext. 14. The Buick City Event Center is located at 812 Leith St., Flint, and can be reached at 810-487-4550 or check the concert calendar on the web at BuickCityEvents.com. The center is also on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketweb.com.