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DLDA once again eyes new city convention center

On the mayor's mind for years, the city is taking yet another look at building a convention, or conference, center in Detroit Lakes.

At the long-ranging planning meeting earlier this year Mayor Larry Buboltz asked the Detroit Lakes Development Authority to look at bringing a convention center to town. The DLDA is now in the works of discussion and the possibility of hiring a consulting firm to write a feasibility report on the matter.

Community Development Director Larry Remmen said when he last checked into the matter in 2004, he received a $4.5 million proposal. He said the initial construction and then ongoing costs would be hard to fund. Two notable convention centers in Minnesota, he said, are Fergus Falls -- which spent $3 million -- and Willmar -- which spent $950,000.

As the DLDA jumped right into discussing location for the convention center, committee member Tom Klyve took a step back, and asked the rest join him.

"It's not just viable location, but viable project. Can we do it? Could it sustain itself?" he said.

He said he supports the idea of a convention center as long as the building could carry itself. Other committee members agreed.

"We don't want to spend $5-6 million for 21 days of events," Klyve said.

Alderman Bruce Imholte said he guarantees the convention would do more than 21 days of events if the city worked at it.

As for location, Imholte suggested looking into land across from the city beach in the Ross-man Avenue and Legion Road area, or in the area between Washington and Minnesota ave-nues, with the possibility of Lakeshirts and Lakeside Tavern housed in the center.

"Get a sales tax involved, we'd have it," he said. Over the years the city has also proposed a half-cent sales tax to be used on multiple projects.

The city did have a feasibility study done roughly 10 years ago, and the committee discussed looking through the plan and updating the information.

The group also instructed Community Development Dire-ctor Larry Remmen to determine the cost of the properties for sale along the beach and if any hotels are interested in bringing a convention center to Detroit Lakes.

In the past, DLDA member Dixie Johnson said, hotels like Marriot and Ramada said they wouldn't consider it if the building were not on Highway 10.

"I couldn't begin to do this unless we have a firm to back this. We can't do this," she said.

Scott Mehlhaff, owner of Best Western and The Lodge on Lake Detroit, said he felt the convention center might be better along Highway 10, where there are already multiple lodging establishments. He also warned the city not to build too big, because 80 percent of meetings are less than 100 people.

Remmen will bring as much information as he can find to the next DLDA meeting, scheduled for May 22.

"The more information, the more discussion," DLDA member Matt Brenk said.