BISMARCK, N.D. Consultants hired by the city of Bismarck to study venue and entertainment facility options said Wednesday it was best that the city upgrade its existing event center instead of building a new, larger facility elsewhere. They summarized their findings Wednesday at the Bismarck Mandan Chamber of Commerce Building before Mayor Mike Seminary, Commissioner Parrell Grossman and City Commissioner Elect Steve Marquardt, Bismarck Event Center Manager Charlie Jeske and other residents.
Susan Sieger of Crossroads Consulting Services and David Greusel of Convergence Design suggested that the city concentrate on lobby improvements, concession areas, a ballroom, kitchen areas, better seating and possibly an escalator to upper floors of the event center. Seminary said the city did not steer the consultants’ findings. The results were based on interviewing show promoters and convention organizers, he said. Better signs might encourage people to park at ramps and walk to the event center, Sieger said. The ballroom would capture a larger market, she added.
Seminary said the study might lead to a public vote about how new improvements could be done to the facility. If voters don’t favor those improvements, the city wouldn’t do them, he said.
Controversy has surrounded the Bismarck Event Center for the past two years. Some $27 million in improvements are being completed this month after its exhibit hall was doubled in size to boost convention business. In November 2012, Bismarck voters rejected increasing its hospitality taxes for a larger, $90 million project there. Yet, the city commission shortly after voted to do the $27 million project by using existing hospitality taxes instead.
Developer Ron Knutson offered to give the city land to build a larger facility to the northeast.
“What we learned today is that would fail miserably,” Seminary said. “We don’t have enough people in our metropolitan survey area (to get the big acts).”
He said there is enough seating to attract most acts with its more than 9,000 seats at the event center, however.
“We said we would commission a study to determine what would be the next venue need to fill in our marketplace. This study says to complete what the original consultant said,” Seminary said. Marquardt said he needed to hear more information.