BISMARCK, N.D. - The Bismarck Civic Center and Jeff Ubl of Ubl Design Group go way back. The architect has been involved with Civic Center projects since at least 2006.
The Civic Center has gone through many changes and architects since its conception, including the development of a master plan in 1987 and the update of that plan in 1992, 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2005, according to information from November’s Civic Center expansion campaign. More recently, though, most of the work has been done by Ubl.
A timeline of the work:
- 1967: Ritterbush Bros. was the architect for the original Civic Center.
- 1990: The Exhibit Hall was added to the Civic Center. Tvenge Associates Architects + Planners designed the hall.
- April 2006: Tvenge Associates was awarded a $24,000 contract for architectural services for a new Civic Center master plan. Jeff Ubl, a principal with Tvenge for three years, also signed the contract and helped with the master plan update.
- 2007: Tvenge Associates presented its new master plan with the help of Seattle-based EHS Design. The plan included a ballroom multipurpose room doubling the size of the Exhibit Hall, new entrances, more meeting rooms and a parking ramp, food service, premium arena seating, locker room changes and space for performers.
- March 2008: Convention, Sports & Leisure was contracted to do a market analysis to determine the feasibility of the proposals put forth in the master plan. The cost was $60,000.
- November 2008: Tvenge Associates was asked to update the Civic Center master plan to match the findings of the market analysis done by CSL. The cost was $24,500.
“We went into it (the 2006 master plan update) thinking the arena needed to be bigger and didn’t really focus on the convention side,” Bismarck Mayor John Warford said.
Warford said the market analysis revealed that it’s the market size that draws acts, not the size of the arena. The study said the Civic Center arena was large enough for the Bismarck market and it would be better to focus on conventions.
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- May 2009: Ubl presented the updated master plan from Tvenge Associates. It was a three-phase plan that included a Fifth Street entrance, a new convention center lobby, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, expanded pre-event space, new meeting rooms, a new food court, more storage and more loading area. It was estimated to cost between $26 million and $36 million.
- 2012: Ubl designed the $90 million concept plan put before voters on the November ballot. This time, he was the principal of his own firm, Ubl Designs, which he started in August 2009. The cost for the concept plan was $10,000; $5,000 was paid by the city and $5,000 by the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Ubl was picked as the architect for the design because of his long-running history with the building. The city did not issue another request for proposal because Ubl was on the original contract with Tvenge Associates.
“I asked the city attorney about the legality of continuing with Jeff,” Warford said. “I was assured that continuation was appropriate.”
Warford said if it had been deemed necessary to issue another request for proposal, the city would have done so. He said it made sense to continue with Ubl because Ubl did not have to start from scratch on planning, which saved money.
“It seems more logical to me because he knows all the nuances,” Warford said.
- 2013: Ubl delivered a downsized $25 million plan for a Civic Center expansion to the Bismarck City Commission. The cost of engineering services is 8.5 percent of the hard costs of the project, which comes out to almost $2 million.