Lack of convention space in Eau Claire costing city millions

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A lack of convention space is turning away a huge amount of business from the Eau Claire area.

Linda John, the Executive Director of Visit Eau Claire, said that the lack of convention space in the City of Eau Claire is causing millions of dollars, which could be flowing through Eau Claire, to go to other cities in the state: she says about $40 million in about a 10-year period.

“The Dells, Green Bay, La Crosse,” are just a few of the cities getting business and hosting conventions Eau Claire can’t because of a lack of convention space," John says.

Now that the Plaza Hotel, which used to be the biggest convention center in Eau Claire, is closed, that gap is increasing even more.

“There are a lot more conventions that would love to come to Eau Claire if we had the facilities to accommodate,” John said.

This past June, Visit Eau Claire announced it would like to see a private developer build a hotel and convention center at the Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex on Menomonie Street. John said today the idea is still a possibility.

Dave Burke, the owner of the Florian Gardens in Eau Claire, says the insufficient convention space, even with his business, is causing them to lose large amounts of business.

“They end up staying in the Madison area, the Dells area, because of the lack of space we have up here,” Burke said. “We’re at that point right now where we have times where we turn away more corporate business than we book.”

With the Plaza Hotel being torn down soon, Burke says there are plans in place to help bridge that lack of convention space gap.

He says the Florian Gardens have been in talks about a much larger space to the west of the building that would be almost 5 times as big as the building already there.

“We’re looking at that very closely now with the Plaza closing,” Burke said.

Along with the plan of building a convention center of over 100,000 square feet, Burke has had conversations about a hotel on-site, a vital element to building.

“You could have all the space in the world, all the perfect configuration, but people aren’t going to come for the ‘State X, Y, Z’ convention if they have to get on a shuttle bus across town for the hotel room.”

While Burke and the Florian Gardens are just in the blue print stage of a new convention center and a convention center by the Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex is still in the works; John says a facility like that would help bring business back to the Eau Claire area.



 
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