(press release from Bismarck Mandan Chamber of Commerce)
Business Community Stands Behind Commission’s Decision
on Civic Center Expansion
Chamber’s Board of Directors bases decision on survey results and committee recommendations
See Survey Results here: Chamber Expansion Survey
March 18, 2013 (Bismarck-Mandan, ND) – The Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors voted on March 13 to support the City Commission’s decision to move forward on a $27 million expansion of the existing Civic Center.
The board’s decision was based on a recommendation from the Local Issues Committee, which hosted presentations both by proponents of the Civic Center expansion and proponents of a new arena to be built in north Bismarck, as well as results of recent membership survey that drew close to 400 responses.
“Our board has been closely following the options that exist for meeting and entertainment space,” said Board President Leslie Oliver. “The recommendation from the Local Issues Committee and survey results solidified our support for the Commission and their decision to proceed with the exhibit hall expansion, without losing sight of the opportunities that are emerging in north Bismarck.”
Survey results indicate members support continued investment in the existing facility. Sixty-one percent of members supported a $27 million expansion utilizing existing hospitality tax revenues, which is the direction that the City Commission took on March 12, 2013. Members also expressed their support to build a new arena within five years.
Sixty percent of respondents worry that downtown Bismarck would suffer if the City did not invest in the Bismarck Civic Center now. Asked about whether failing to act now on a north side events center, 63 percent do not believe waiting would have a negative impact on the community.
“Our member survey showed support for the existing Civic Center,” said Kelvin Hullet, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber. “However, there also was clear interest in moving forward and exploring the idea of a new arena, which our board recognized in their motion last week. In addition to supporting the $27 million investment, our board recommended a feasibility study to consider a north location.”
It was no surprise that the number one concern about the Civic Center is parking. While 60 percent indicated it was an issue, an equal number would support using additional sales or hospitality taxes to pay for a $20-30 million ramp.
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Members weren’t as decisive on how to pay for a new events center. Only 43 percent would support an increase in the sales tax to pay for a $150 million facility and the same number indicated a willingness to use a sales tax increase to pay for a combined approach to a new north events center and Civic Center expansion.
“The lack of details and direction on how the community should move forward could be contributing to the current lack of support for an increase in the sales taxes,” said Hullet. “What we do know is that there is clear support to enhance our community’s position to support events and conferences, if the right plan is developed and presented.”
Over the next few weeks, the Chamber will work with the private and public sector to develop an events and conference facilities task force. This task force will investigate the details of the proposed projects, possible funding mechanisms and work to educate the public on the possible pathways forward.
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