Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Advocating for the Arena
Three years after Duluthians voted overwhelmingly to help fund it, the long-anticipated expansion of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) has begun. The expansions first phase, the construction of a 475-spot parking ramp, is underway. Construction of the expansion’s centerpiece, the Duluth Arena, will begin in April 2009. The Arena will open in December 2010. The dream has become reality.
The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce has been an unwavering advocate for the DECC expansion. Three years ago, the Chamber partnered with the Duluth Construction and Building Trades to champion the DECC expansion at the Minnesota State Legislature. We also partnered with the DECC’s leadership, UMD’s leadership, and Duluth’s elected officials to make a strong case for the State of Minnesota to fund $38 million of the $80 million investment.
Our appeal for support was eventually embraced by all. Governor Pawlenty, the State House of Representatives and the State Senate were favorably impressed by Duluthians’ decision to help fund the expansion by approving an increase in the city food and beverage tax. As well, these decision-makers were impressed with the University of Minnesota Duluth’s plan to fund 12% of the DECC expansion and the DECC’s plan to fund 11% of the expansion. These State decision-makers eventually voted to approve the State’s $38 million contribution.
Those of us who reside in and around our Emerald City on the Hill will be the beneficiaries of the DECC expansion. The new activities that will occur within the expanded DECC will bring millions of dollars each year into our economy through shopping, lodging, dining and other purchases. The new Arena, alone, will dramatically increase the more than $750,000 in sales tax the DECC currently collects each year.
Additionally, the expansion will provide needed construction jobs. It will employ 300 full-time, union jobs at the peak of construction. It will also provide us hardy walkers a new skywalk link connecting the new parking ramp and the Northwest Passage from Downtown to the new Arena. The additional skywalk will provide more convenient access to the DECC, as well as additional protection from the Gales of November (and December, January, February, and March) for DECC visitors.
There is much to celebrate as the long-held dream of building one of the best convention and entertainment facilities in the world here in Duluth comes to fruition. The Chamber is pleased and proud to have played a small part in making the dream become reality.
posted by David Ross