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Letter: Replace the Pavilion with an event center? Here's a better idea

Why build another community “event center” which would both duplicate and compete with our outstanding DLCCC facility? The newly renovated, elegant Ballroom of the Historic Holmes Theatre will accommodate up to 400 guests and offers banquet, cocktail, reception, lecture and classroom seating, plus a conference room.

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This letter is concerning “Changes to the Beachfront” (DL Tribune, Sept. 3, 2022) proposed by the DL City Council, which negatively impact the success of our existing Detroit Lakes Community Cultural Center and threaten the integrity of our local historic Detroit Lakes City Park.

The Detroit Lakes Pavilion has been at the center of our lakefront since it was built in 1915. The partial renovation of the DL Pavilion in 2008 did not comply with the restoration guidelines of the Minnesota State Preservation Office. As a result, the DL Pavilion as it now stands, is no longer considered “a contributing part” of our historic City Park: Protection for the historical integrity of the Detroit Lakes Pavilion has been lost.

This leaves the Pavilion and our historic City Park environs vulnerable and unprotected from unfettered commercial development: Demolishing the Pavilion; replacing the Pavilion with a concrete-glass-steel contemporary “event center,” changing the environmental footprint of the original Pavilion, and including an asphalt parking lot within our historic City Park.

The presentation of “options” by the RDG design team from Omaha, as presented in the newspaper story, says the City Council seeks questions about “a possible replacement event center” for our community.

Instead of building another concrete-glass-steel building and parking lot that would dominate the City Park, why not build an historic replica of the original Pavilion whose architecture will maintain the iconic stature of the original 1915 Pavilion? With its premium hardwood dance floor and graceful windows, the Pavilion was the crown jewel of our town’s waterfront and the surrounding lake district.

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The design firm’s options presented have an estimated dollar cost of $5 million to $10 million (per 2017 valuation). Within that budget, the cost of building an historic replacement of our original Pavilion is feasible and would add cultural value to our town’s historic lakefront district.

According to City Administrator Kelcey Klemm, the existing half-cent local sales tax brought in $1.9 million last year. The tax could finance the authentic, historic replacement of the landmark Detroit Lakes Pavilion.

Our local community and city worked together to obtain significant fundraising and state grant funds to create the outstanding Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year!

Why build another community “event center” which would both duplicate and compete with our outstanding DLCCC facility? The newly renovated, elegant Ballroom of the Historic Holmes Theatre will accommodate up to 400 guests and offers banquet, cocktail, reception, lecture and classroom seating, plus a conference room.

A new community “event center” is unnecessary and redundant and will undermine the ongoing success of our DLCCC.

The most progressive revitalization of the DL Beachfront and City Park is to build an authentic Pavilion that is compatible with the town’s historic district. Detroit Lakes is unique in the region for its ongoing commitment to the cultural and commercial enhancement of our community.

The preservation of our historic identity as a lakeside town should be at the heart of planning for the future. A longstanding citizen of Detroit Lakes reminded us in a DL Tribune article last summer, “our town has a soul.” Let’s build back the Detroit Lakes Pavilion as she once was — an icon of our town’s charming historic district.

The Detroit Lakes Pavilion is a cultural landmark and, if rebuilt as an authentic historic structure, would once again become the queen of the Detroit Lakes lakefront, marking the entrance to the West Lake Drive beach promenade!

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