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Community facilities white paper 2 5-09


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Community facilities white paper 2 5-09

  1. 1. A VISIONARY INVESTMENT The Eau Claire Multi-Use Event CenterEau Claire, Wisconsin: On the Threshold of ChangeOne of Wisconsin’s most vibrant and economically stable communities, Eau Claire stands ata threshold of change. A community of more than 65,000 people, it has grown steadily bymore than 45% over the last four decades, with more than 110,000 projected to call EauClaire County home by 2025. Eau Claire is Northwest Wisconsins largest metropolitanarea, a destination retail, cultural and entertainment hub for more than 463,000 people in theregion.The region’s economic stability is supported by a diverse economic base that includes suchgrowth sectors as education (the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, Stout and RiverFalls, and the Chippewa Valley Technical College), healthcare (Luther Midelfort-MayoHealth System, Sacred Heart Hospital and the Marshfield Clinic), technology (HutchinsonTechnology Inc.) and corporate headquarters (Menards). Employers find an educatedworkforce, a safe, family-friendly community, and low cost of living. In 2007, Eau Clairewas named one of the safest communities in the state, and the second-safest in the UnitedStates.Eau Claire’s high quality of life—nine out of 10 residents rate it good or excellent—is theresult, in part, of its commitment to growth and physical development. Comprehensiveplanning has been a hallmark of the City’s efforts over the past five decades. More recently,the 2005 comprehensive plan, which guides the city in its land use and development effortsthrough 2025, outlines core commitments to preserving the region’s quality of life,transforming the local economy and empowering individuals.As a result, the city has seen the redevelopment of its downtown with the addition ofPhoenix Park and the Farmer’s Market on the Chippewa River, the new RCU OfficeBuilding anchoring the Park development, new housing and commercial development alongBarstow in the downtown area, and seven new community-focused events that include thepopular Taste of Eau Claire and the International Fall Festival. Urban development has beensupported by mass transit improvements that have encouraged more than a million riders touse the bus system annually.In addition to urban redevelopment, Eau Claire is blessed with a wide range of recreationalresources, anchored by its two scenic rivers—the Chippewa and the Eau Claire—whichenhance its downtown and shape its parkland. Eau Claire ranks second in the state amongpeer communities with more than 1,500 acres of park and open space land, a 52,000-acremanaged county forest, 27 miles of trails and such unique facilities as cross-country skiingFebruary 4, 2009 1
  2. 2. at Tower Ridge, mountain biking at Lowes Creek County Park and the observatory andScience Center at Beaver Creek Reserve.Over the past two years, the Eau Claire community has come together as never before tointentionally shape its future and to build on its rich heritage. More than 200 citizensparticipated in a comprehensive community visioning process —Clear Vision Eau Claire—facilitated by the National Civic League. The result was a vision that encompasses six goals,including a commitment to enhancing the area’s quality of life by “improving theinfrastructure that supports a vibrant arts, culture and recreational scene in Eau ClaireCounty.”Supported by broad community consensus, this commitment has coalesced around the needfor a new, multi-use events facility or facilities that will address long-standing demand forpublic event, performance, educational and recreational space. These facilities are the focusof this white paper.A Confluence of Demand, Need and OpportunityEau Claire’s long history of community engagement and partnerships is the foundation forrenewed efforts to meet the need for enhanced event facilities. Civic leadership has cometogether as never before, forming coalitions of private and public partners eager and ready towork together—despite the current economic challenges—to improve the city and region.Leaders from the city, county, arts community, university, business, hospitality and tourism,non-profits and healthcare are united in the recognition that our economic and civic vitalityrequires a visionary, and creative, investment in our future.The community’s readiness to partner on a multi-use event center arises from longstandingneed, demonstrated by an analysis of Eau Claire’s current public facilities. Across the boardthey are aging, woefully inadequate, or both. Community Arena ComparisonAging and Inadequate Facilities • The area’s largest event facility—the 3,500-seat Eau Claire 3,500 seats Zorn Arena—was built in 1951 when UW-Eau Dubuque, IA 4,800 Claire had 750 students. The University currently La Crosse, WI 8,000 enrolls nearly 11,000 students. The Arena is Duluth, MN 7,700 Mankato, MN 8,200 configured to support sporting events, but lacks Green Bay, WI 10,200 the staging, lighting and sound support to Moline, IL 12,000 facilitate diverse programming or to serve the Des Moines, IA 17,000 & needs of the growing student body. 7,200 Eau Claire Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2007 • The State Theatre, home to the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, was built in 1926 and is in such condition that the facility must either undergo major renovations or be replaced.February 4, 2009 2
  3. 3. A 2006 Facility Analysis revealed “significant facility issues,” including aging building and HVAC systems that need complete replacement, fire and life safety protection problems, inadequate restrooms, critical stage loading limitations and a general high level of deferred maintenance throughout the facility. The analysis identified 25 critical facility needs, including a three-story elevator, sound proofing, heating system upgrades and expanded lobby and reception space. Recommendations for change to the Regional Arts Center include options ranging from a $7 million renovation of existing space to achieve code compliance to a $20 million replacement facility that will provide expanded seating, rehearsal space, and visual and performing arts classrooms. • Eau Claire currently does not have facilities for smaller, intimate performances for 200 or 500 patrons. In addition, gallery and studio space is at a premium. Such facilities would expand opportunities for a greater range of cultural offerings and provide options for nonprofit groups who cannot afford or choose not to use the Regional Arts Center facilities. • Despite UW-Eau Claire’s prominence as home to the largest music program in the state, its university performing arts venues are now almost 40 years old and are not configured to meet modern theatrical staging and audience needs. Venue size, seating and backstage capacity, including lighting and sound, ill serve both the educational needs of the UW-Eau Claire students and the performance demands for a diverse range of community events. • Eau Claire’s largest meeting facilities—the Plaza Hotel at 28,000 square feet, and the Ramada at 22,000—are significantly smaller and more outdated than those available in comparable cities such as La Crosse, with 100,000 square feet in meeting and exhibition space available, Green Bay, at 50,000 square feet, and Stevens Point with 43,000 square feet. The lack of large-scale meeting and exhibit space severely hampers Eau Claire’s ability to compete for special events, conventions and large meetings for any group larger than 600. Lack of convention space contributes to reduced hotel occupancy rates as well. Meeting Space by Community Largest Meeting/ Community Exhibit Space Total in Facility Name Stevens Point 55,000 Sq. Ft. 106,000 Sq. Ft. Sentry World Golf Course Green Bay 43,680 Sq. Ft. 43,680 Sq. Ft. Shopko Hall: Expo Center LaCrosse 40,000 Sq. Ft. 100,000 Sq. Ft. LaCrosse Center: Arena + North Hall Oshkosh Convention Center: Exhibit Oshkosh 15,400 Sq. Ft. 18,500 Sq. Ft. Hall Fox Cities 15,000 Sq. Ft. 36,000 Sq. Ft. Radison: Grand Ballroom Chippewa Valley 7,344 Sq. Ft. 34,265 Sq. Ft. Ramada Convention Center: Great Hall Wausau 7,000 Sq. Ft. 23,000 Sq. Ft. Plaza Hotel: Garden Atrium Wisconsin Rapids 4,050 Sq. Ft. 14,000 Sq. Ft. Hotel Mead: Grand Ballroom Eau Claire Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2009February 4, 2009 3
  4. 4. • While the region does have a mix of meeting spaces, they are not centrally located and serve primarily small events of less than 250 people. Such facilities are located at the Beaver Creek Reserve, Action City and Florian Gardens in Eau Claire, White’s Wildwood Retreat in Chippewa Falls and St. Mary’s Community Center in Altoona. Area conference hotels include the Plaza Conference Center, the Holiday Inn Campus Area, the Ramada Conference Center and the Quality Inn. The Eau Claire County Exposition Center, while providing multi-use facilities on a larger scale, is available only from April through October due to weather limitations. • The YMCA, the traditional provider of community recreational facilities, currently occupies buildings that are almost 50 years old, are not ADA compliant and require users and children to cross a busy street to access facilities. There are major mechanical and HVAC deficiencies. Much of the space, including that used for daycare and before- and after-school programming was designed for other purposes. The current 77,000 square feet is too small for services provided and parking is inadequate.The Vision: An Urban Multi-use Event CenterWith community consensus on the need for improved multi-use facilities and with strongdemand from stakeholders for convention, event and cultural programming space, EauClaire has a unique opportunity to advance its vision and meet priority needs. Thecommunity has identified a multi-use event center as its foremost investment priority.Center ParametersThe multi-use event complex may be a single facility, a series of connected facilities, or twoor more facilities at separate locations. The final configuration will include: • Major Events Facility The multi-use complex should provide facilities that can seat up to 6,000 people for concert or sporting events. It should provide flexible configurations for a range of events and staging facilities to adequately meet stage, sound and lighting demands. • Arts Center The complex will become the performance home for the current Eau Claire Regional Arts Center tenants and for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire music and theater programs. It will include three performance venues, with seating for 200, 500 and 1,000. Rehearsal, studio and instruction space, in addition to administrative offices will be needed. The arts center should also provide space for an art gallery and studios.February 4, 2009 4
  5. 5. • Community and Recreation Center The complex will offer 120,000-130,000 square feet of mixed recreational facilities, designed for three full-sized basketball courts, an aquatic center with two pools—a lap pool and family pool)—and a gymnastics center. In addition, the community center will offer facilities for daycare and teen care, as well as office and meeting spaces for YMCA staff and non-profit organizations. • Convention Space The facility will enable Eau Claire to compete with our peer communities in Wisconsin and nearby Minnesota in attracting conventions and events that host 3,000 people or more. Convention space should provide a minimum of 100,000 square feet of meeting space with an additional 20,000 square feet of break-out meeting rooms. Considerations for siting the convention space should take into account existing hotel/motel resources and the potential to develop additional hotels.Site Options and ParametersThe city offers a range of attractive options for a multi-use event complex. Eau Claire iscommitted to working closely with development partners to access the site and supportdevelopment. Attached to this overview is a detailed map identifying the range of locationoptions available.While a range of potential sites is available, the final selection will meet both the scope ofthe multi-use complex as outlined above and the following criteria. The complex must: • Be located in the urban core to enhance city development and to accommodate UW- Eau Claire students • Provide convenient access to mass transit, current transportation routes, and walking and biking trails • Be located in proximity to area hotels to take advantage of existing lodging resources • Use riverfront locations to advantage to enhance our recreational heritage and reflect sustainable building practices and standards • Deliver economies of scale • Address the economic impact of relocated servicesFunding Models & Revenue OpportunitiesEau Claire is ready to partner creatively to support a multi-use event complex. The fiscalreality, however, is that reduced state shared-revenue support for communities has doubledthe tax burden on local property taxpayers over the past decade. State funding formunicipalities has decreased from 50% in 1995 to 25% today, with a corresponding increasein local property taxes. Property-tax funding for an infrastructure investment of thismagnitude is not realistic.February 4, 2009 5
  6. 6. Nevertheless, in the absence of tax-based funding, Eau Claire actively seeks public-privatepartnerships that will meet both economic development and facilities expansion goals. Suchpartnerships will take advantage of a creative mix of private and philanthropic dollars aswell as a combination of local, county, state and federal funding opportunities. Potentialcollaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and other civic agencies areencouraged.Collaborative arrangements could include shared development or long-term leasing of onsiteapartments, condos and/or student housing or retirement housing. Apartment or residencefacilities near to campus and in close proximity to a multi-use center would be attractive tostudents, young professionals as well as senior citizens. In addition, the University’s long-term strategic plan calls for expanding its continuing education and professionalprogramming. Current facilities for continuing education are inadequate and the Universityis interested in developing facilities that will provide classroom, meeting space and offices.Other tenants, such as the YMCA, local healthcare clinics and wellness centers couldprovide opportunities for the complex to include walk-in centers and community servicefacilities with extended hours.It is expected that development partnerships for the multi-use complex will include suchrevenue-generating amenities as retail outlets, restaurants, entertainment venues, such asmovie theaters, and hotels.An Investment in the FutureEau Claire’s multi-use event complex holds promise to become both a destination as well asan urban center for round-the-clock activities that serve full-time residents as well asvisitors. With demand, location and willing partners aligned, the arts and entertainmentcomplex is truly an exceptional opportunity to invest in Eau Claire’s future.Sources • The City of Eau Claire Comprehensive Plan. 2005. • Clear Vision Eau Claire: The Community Visioning and Strategic Planning Process Special Report, July 30, 2008. • Clear Vision Trends and Conditions of the Eau Claire Area, 2008. • Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation, Area Economic Profile, 2009. • Eau Claire Regional Arts Council Inc., Facility Analysis Synopsis, April 24, 2006. • Eau Claire Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Similar Markets Research, internal report, 2007. • Eau Claire Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Current Meeting Space by Community, internal report, 2007.February 4, 2009 6