The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Business

March 24, 2014

Civic center bustling

Conventions, park concerts fueling civic center

As the Verizon Wireless Center approaches its 20th anniversary next year, local officials are hopeful this will be the year the state finally approves funding to allow for a major expansion of the facility.

The civic center was built in 1995 for $23 million, funded through a half-percent local sales tax. While there have been upgrades since – including a new ice sheet for the Minnesota State University Maverick hockey team — the expansion is seen as a major step toward attracting much larger conventions and booking multiple events at the civic center.

“It would give us a whole new level of business we can go after. We’re losing the statewide conventions simply because we don’t have the space,” said Burt Lyman, executive director of the city-owned and operated facility.

But even as they hope expansion will move forward, city officials say the facility - and Riverfront Park, which is also operated by Lyman and the civic center – have been growing in use and popularity and bringing economic growth to the downtown.

Riverfront Park venue a hit

When Riverfront Park opened in 2010, few could predict how quickly it would grow in popularity and use.

Situated along the Minnesota River, near Old Town, the park’s stage, amphitheater and large grass area has made it ideal for events such as RibFest, art shows and concerts. The park is operated by the city-run Civic Center.

“Last year was very good for us at the park. The park seems to have taken hold. We’re building on that,” Lyman said. He said the addition of the park has fit nicely with the civic center because summers are slower for the arena and convention center, while the park is busy.

He said successful concerts at the park have means agents are now eager to book shows there.

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