The developer of a proposal for a $150 million event center in north Bismarck would be new and exciting, and a 1 cent sales tax might be one way of funding it.
About 50 people attended the a public information meeting Monday at Horizon Middle School to weigh in on two Bismarck convention center proposals. The first option would to double the size of the existing Civic Center Exhibit Hall for $25 million. The second would be to build a whole new event center north of 57th Avenue near U.S. Highway 83.
The developer of the proposed north location, Ron Knutson, said his plan would bring something new and exciting to Bismarck to attract younger people. He also said building the new center would lead to private investment filling in the acres around it and bring more tax dollars. A large private company may even chip in for the cost of the new center in exchange for naming rights, he said.
“This town deserves something new,” Knutson said.
He was asked how the proposal would affect taxes. He replied that the plan is not yet final but a 1 cent sales tax could be an option down the line.
Citizens posed questions and voiced mixed opinions on what should be done. How taxes would be affected by the north side development, a lack of enough parking around the Civic Center and taking advantage of the north side opportunity while it’s available were among topics of discussion.
Attendees in favor of the Civic Center expansion said it would be more economical and the infrastructure already exists in the current location, while the north location would cost more and would take several years to develop.
Bismarck City Commissioner Parrell Grossman said the $150 million north site was fundable but it would hinge on whether citizens would want to pay for it.
Several at the meeting said the new event center proposal was in an ideal location where Bismarck is growing and if the city were to wait, the land may be developed for something else or costs of building could go up.
Several worried that with a Civic Center expansion, downtown parking will just get worse. Supporters of the Civic Center expansion, like Kate Herzog of the Bismarck Downtowners Association, said there is parking downtown and people’s mindsets are shifting toward using parking ramps more often.
One attendee said while he was excited about the prospect of the north location the city couldn’t just “scrap” the Civic Center. He said there should be a way for both locations to work together.