EAU CLAIRE, Wi. (WLAX) — Last year, Visit Eau Claire and the city did a feasibility study to see if a new convention center in Eau Claire would make sense.
“I think we’ve always had the smaller venues and that’s been sufficient. But we’re continuing to build more motels and hotels and obviously with the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown, we need to keep bringing people in,” said Eau Claire City Council President Terry Weld.
Eau Claire already has the Pablo Center at the Confluence, and plans are moving forward for the Sonnentag Events and Recreation Complex.
So why the need for all three?
“The event center, the art center, and the convention center all have unique uses. The convention center specifically, we are definitely at a significant disadvantage in the regional market compared to our competitors where we don’t have these large facilities to host these larger events,” said Visit Eau Claire Sports Sales Manager Jason Krueger.
Currently the city is looking at three potential sites.
One of which would be on Menomine Street, the same site as the future Sonnentag Center.
The other two would be downtown.
“Whether it is Block 7, or south of the Pablo on Graham, or the Sonnentag, all good spots. The Sonnentag probably does give us a head start and already have a lot of the infrastructure in place to make that work,” said Weld.
In October, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire officials announced plans for the nearly $100 million Sonnentag project, which would accommodate 4,100 people, was moving forward.
Giving the city another aspect to ponder as they decide where, and if, a convention center should also be built.
“The two projects are completely separate, but there’s also that collaboration with the community on how do we get both of these projects moving forward. So the city, Visit Eau Claire, and other community stakeholders are looking at different financing options on each facility to make sure everything is working out for the community as a whole,” said Krueger.
In December the city council is expected to meet with an item on the agenda dealing with a possible partnership between the Sonnentag Center and new convention center.
An ideal convention center would hold 1,200 people, according to Krueger.
“Right now I would say we’re in the process of finalizing details of what that convention center would look like. Then once that’s set in place, then we can move forward to start figuring out what those next steps are,” said Krueger.
“City staff is looking at everything right now. Looking at infrastructure, looking at parking, looking at traffic. Looking at all those things and making sure it’s feasible to add on to that and will it meet the needs of what our intentions are,” added Weld.