BISMARCK, N.D. - Former Bismarck City Commissioner Sandi Tabor will chair a task force studying event center options for the city. It is called the Future Venues Task Force.

The 21-member committee has scheduled its first meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber Office for about 90 minutes.

The Bismarck City Commission in March voted to have the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce appoint the group from various citizens, stakeholders, government entities and the business community to study event and venue options in Bismarck.

The decision came after the Bismarck City Commission also decided to expand the Bismarck Civic Center Exhibit Hall at a cost of $27 million to benefit the city’s convention business. The project is scheduled to be substantially done in time for the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in May 2014. That project will be paid for with existing city hospitality taxes. A Nov. 6 vote to increase the hospitality taxes to pay for a $90 million expansion project failed.

City Administrator Bill Wocken said Thursday the advertisement for bids is still being prepared for the project.

Developer Ron Knutson had offered to donate property on the north side of Bismarck for an event center. He and his supporters opposed the Civic Center expansion. Downtown merchants said they need the convention business from the Civic Center to keep the downtown business district thriving.

Knutson has agreed to participate in the task force after previously indicating that he might pull his land offer to the north for an event center. He said Thursday the group will be able to look at a number of options for an event center in a different setting, including his own development proposal. He said he wants an event plan that will give the city a sense of pride for its current needs now and for the next 50 years.

Tabor said the task force will start by meeting with city planning staff to ask them where they see the growth patterns. They will ask the staff how that might tie into where event needs could be.

“This is about the future of Bismarck for venues and events,” Tabor said.

She said the group will collect information and bring a series of reports to the city commission until the end of the year. If the group determines that a special study is needed, it hopes to make that recommendation in time for the budgeting process in August and September, she said.

Tabor said the task force will study:

  • Meeting, conference and event space needs.
  • Infrastructure considerations.
  • Costs and funding opportunities for an events center.

Other task force members are Leslie Oliver, chairman of the chamber; Randy Hanson, chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau; Wayne Munson of Indigo Signs; Jim Poolman of The Blarney Stone; Lon Romsaas of Swenson & Hagen; Greg Vetter of the University of Mary; Jim Haussler of Bismarck Public Schools; Molly Sullivan of the Young Professionals; citizen Adam Stonestreet; Craig Lambrecht of the Bismarck Mandan Development Association; Dale Zimmerman, chairman of the Downtowners; Matt Reichert of the Aspen Group; Annette Caldwell of Open Road Honda; Loran Galpin of the Galpin Co., Inc.; Barb Aasen of Eide Bailly LLP; Tim Hennessy of US Bank; John Evanson of Dakota Community Bank; citizen Al Christianson; and city Commissioners Mike Seminary and Parrell Grossman.

Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.