New multi-purpose event center may boost local business

Eau Claire, WI (WEAU) -- Development directors say a newly announced complex center will help bring business to the Eau Claire area.

UW-Eau Claire has received a $10 million donation of land and money from the Sonnentag family.

The plan is to use that gift to help build a multi-purpose event center. It will be located on 21-acres of property between Menomonie Street and the Chippewa River, near Carson park.

The university says fundraising and increased student fees will cover the rest of the project.

Today city leaders are saying the new center will provide a major economic boost to the city.

Construction is slated to begin within the next five years but before groundbreaking can begin, plans have to be drawn up. Plans that UW-Eau Claire Vice Chancellor of Facilities, Mike Rindo says will be carefully thought out to ensure they maximize the donated spaces' potential for economic development.

UWEC sophomore, Kayla Pierce says she thinks the building will help better campus life. "I think that building the new facility will engage student in Eau Claire so that they are more active as students, as well as in the community," says Pierce.

"I would like to go to some events, I haven't had much opportunity yet but I'd like to," says Eau Claire resident, Kelsey Marano who thinks she may have more incentive to attend events when the complex center is completed.

Mike Schatz, the Economic Director with the City of Eau Claire says he feels the community is excited about the project. “The buzz in the community is so positive, the energy that is there, and I think people feel like we are moving to that next level that we can do things,” says Schatz

Schatz says he believes the newly announced plans to replace Zorn arena with an event complex, in combination with the already proposed Confluence Project means good things for Eau Claire’s economy.

"When you're trying to build a city, and try attracting talented people and having people live here, having amenities like an events center is very important. So, with the Confluence Project, with the events center we are building that infrastructure of quality of life amenities that you need if you want to be a competitive city that keeps growing and progressing," says Schatz.

Rindo says also believes the events center will help in creating amenities that would draw people to Eau Claire. “We anticipate that there will be private development around this site that will also support the activities that are occurring there. You could possibly see a hotel or a restaurant. We think this really has the potential to really be a transformative project that will excite a lot of development in the surrounding area," says Rindo.

Bob McCoy, with the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce says the multi-purpose facility will give the city the ability to generate funds.

"Visit Eau Claire will tell you that we turn away, lots and lots of opportunities because we don't have a big enough facility and of course with this big enough facility, it fills more motel rooms and brings more money in. I think Linda John indicated there's been about $40 million that we haven't been able to attract,” says McCoy.

But, Schatz puts it simply saying, "It's very promising for the community."

While plans for the complex center are still underway, Rindo says the funding for the Confluence Project is still being decided.
He says a meeting on August 21st will determine if the funding could come from a non-state agency grant or be included in the UW System’s Board of Regent’s capital project recommendations.

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