civic center rendering

MANKATO — Final designs for Mankato's $32 million civic center renovation and expansion, set to begin construction next month, show a new home base for Minnesota State University hockey, a new venue for concerts, a new outdoor gathering space and some new sparkle for downtown.

The Mankato Events Center, which will rise 56 feet from floor to roof, will be the most visible change to the civic center complex.

The building will stretch from the existing civic center to Second Street and will be used for concerts not large enough to fill the 8,200 seats that can be sold in the main civic center. The new space will be able to seat just over 2,000 and includes lobbies on the Hickory Street side, along with ticket offices, restrooms, dressing rooms for performers and concessions areas.

The event center's large open space — 170 feet wide — is designed for flexible use. Three sections of retractable seating that will incline from a second-story lobby to the main floor and will hold 890 people. Velvet curtains will hide the seats when they are retracted and the space is being used for conventions or other events.

The second floor also includes a "club seating" area in the center and fixed seating with a capacity of 234, plus conference rooms. When temporary seating is set up on the floor, the event center will hold crowds of up to 2,146 for performances.

The exterior of the events center will be primarily dyed precast concrete and large areas of glass providing views of the lobbies and stairways. The building will be dressed up with limestone and metal surfaces and highlighted with large "sparkle panels," produced by the company Sensitile, that can change colors.

"We're looking at using illuminated panels to bring that interest and light ...," said Jeremy Wiesen of I&S Group, the project architect.

Along with the sparkle panel on the front of the building, three more are designed into the plainer back side of the facility facing Walnut Street. But the panels will allow civic center staff to vary the look of the building electronically.

"Staff may want to program it for different kinds of events," Wiesen said.

Purple may be the color of choice for several dozen fall and winter nights when the Mavericks are playing home games, and there are substantial upgrades and expanded facilities in the existing downtown arena to make it the home base for MSU hockey.

The men's team has played its games downtown since graduating to the Division I level nearly 20 years ago, but both teams had their offices and held their practices at All Seasons Arena near the MSU campus.

The project will add a women's locker room and and a much larger men's locker room to the civic center. New whirlpool/therapy tubs will be added, as will steam rooms and a substantially larger trainer's room for injured players.

There will also be a new conditioning/weight room, a reception area for the hockey programs and equipment storage space.

Coaches offices will be added — one each for the head coaches and four for assistants. The plans also include a video/dining/study room and a kitchen.

The overall look of the hockey center, which will be located on the west (Riverfront Drive) side of the civic center, may not be a surprise.

"It's going to bleed purple and gold," Wiesen said.

The new facilities will be accommodated largely by adding a second floor below the upper concourse in the arena and by moving some civic center storage space to the new event center, he said. Visitor locker rooms will also be moved to the opposite side of the ice sheet.

Remodeling of the civic center will begin in April, just three weeks after the men's team finishes its home season, and will be completed by the start of the 2015-16 hockey season in October, said Chris Frank, project manager for Mortenson Construction, which is the general contractor for the improvements. Foundation work on the new event center will also start in April. The new building should be enclosed by December or January with interior work continuing until its July 2016 opening.

Work will also begin this spring on a new plaza and outdoor stage between the civic center and Intergovernmental Center, a space that will be used for June's Songs on the Lawn concerts and other outdoor events.

The overall project is being funded by state funding and with proceeds of the half-percent local sales tax.

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