To increase the city’s convention business, Bismarck voters may decide in November if they want to pay up to $60 million to expand and upgrade the Bismarck Civic Center.
Early plans would add 30,000 square feet to the convention center lobby. The city is keeping Ubl Design Group as the architect of a future project if voters accept it. The consultant provided a rendering of its plans last month to the commission.
City attorney Charlie Whitman is drafting the ballot language for possible commission approval on Aug. 14.
This week, city staff was also asked to seek offers from hotels interested in locating near the Civic Center.
“I’m drafting the ballot format,” Whitman said Thursday. “The commission will decide how and what the tax will be (on the ballot).” He said the motel and lodging tax appears the favored means of paying for the upgrades, but that still has to be decided.
Businessman Bill Shalhoob, who has pushed for the project, favors using a new visitors’ tax — 2 percent on rooms, 1 percent on food and 1 percent on liquor.
The early rendering done by Ubl Design Group featured improvements that:
-- Expand the convention center lobby to include a ballroom measuring at least 30,000 square feet.
-- Move the prominent entrance to the Fifth Street side.
-- Renovate meeting rooms, locker rooms and performer spaces.
-- Add a food court to the north.
-- Add a full-service, in-house kitchen.
-- Upgrade paint, carpet, ceilings and restrooms for the exhibit hall.
Those items could be adjusted.
The project is strongly favored by the Bismarck Mandan Chamber of Commerce, the Downtowners Association and the Convention and Visitors Bureau..
“As we look at Bismarck-Mandan becoming an epicenter of energy development in North Dakota, the expansion of the Civic Center enables it to maintain the events we have in the community and attract new events,” said Chamber President Kelvin Hullet. “It is a key component in development of the community.”
Hullet said the Chamber is studying the financial impact of expanding the Civic Center. He said the Chamber is now meeting with stakeholders, users and possible users of the Civic Center to determine if the plans meet their needs.
“We’ll roll it out to the public in the next three or four weeks,” he said. In the public hearing process, “there will be a high level of transparency,” Hullet said.
It’s too early to say what a viable offer for a hotel near the Civic Center will do to the project, Hullet said.
Kate Herzog, assistant director of the Downtowners Group, said expansion of the Civic Center is the most cost-effective thing for the city to do.
“It’s a rare thing to have a convention center, a regional mall and downtown all in walking distance,” she said. She calls it a big economic impact for the downtown and community.
“(People) can eat, drink and shop. It promotes a lot of sales tax. It’s a great economic generator for downtown and the community,” she said.
“It’s a refinement and an upgrade of community services,” said Russ Staiger, president and CEO of the the Bismarck Mandan Development Association, who said it is a city-driven project. “It’s an enhancement that will lead to better events at the Civic Center.”