Regardless if an Eau Claire convention center will or won’t be a part of the project, UW-Eau Claire is pressing forward with its plans for a new sports arena and recreation complex.
Chancellor James Schmidt told a gathering of about 120 local business and community leaders Friday morning that a consultant’s report on the convention center won’t impact progress for the Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex.
“I want to assure you we’re good with all of this,” he said.
Hunden Strategic Partners released its report earlier this month on the feasibility of incorporating a convention center — a facility Visit Eau Claire and city leaders have said the city really needs — into the Sonnentag complex. The consultants recommended that other locations be considered, namely downtown, stating that both the convention center and existing businesses would see a better economic benefit there as opposed to the university’s land on Menomonie Street.
Visit Eau Claire’s board of directors agreed to consider additional sites, while not yet ruling out the Sonnentag land.
Schmidt said “everyone should move forward with what’s best for them” when it comes to the university and those researching the potential for a convention center.
“We want the convention center to be located where ever it makes the most sense,” Schmidt said.
However, he did not shut the door on the two projects coming together someday, stating that the Sonnentag complex designs would keep space on the site available for other facilities.
According to Hunden’s report, the convention center building would take up about three acres — not including neighboring necessities of parking and a hotel.
A branch of the university’s foundation, Blugold Real Estate, currently owns a little over 30 acres along Menomonie Street, which had previously been home to Student Transit, County Materials a Fabick Cat heavy machinery dealership.
Schmidt said Friday that UW-Eau Claire hopes to “turn a shovel” on the site in 2020 to begin construction on the Sonnentag complex. The project would include a replacement for the university’s Zorn Arena, plus create a recreation center for UW-Eau Claire, the local YMCA and Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.