DECC, Range Recreation Civic Center Among Minnesota Convention Centers Receiving State Grants

The DECC was given $500,000 and the RRCC, $105,000.

DULUTH, Minn.- Convention Centers and Theaters across Minnesota received their own share of $13 million in grants from the state Monday, and two convention centers in the Northland say it is a much needed relief from the effects of the pandemic.

The DECC was a recipient of the highest grant amount allowed by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s program:  $500,000.

“Getting that assistance was really significant,” Interim Director Roger Reinert said, “I actually did a little happy dance in the office because we had been hopeful. “

Reinert says until now, the DECC had received no assistance through the CARES Act or PPP Program — being ineligible due to being a quasi-governmental entity. “Up to this point we hadn’t received anything.”

He says the new grant money will initially go toward utilities. But it’ll also serve as a cushion as the DECC moves forward with having events again. “We’re gonna have two buckets of expenses coming at us,” said Reinert.

“One is as we turn on parts of the complex, one that’s just gonna be more expensive, right, lights and utility. But the other bucket of expenses is being able to bring people back. As we grow and we do more activities we know we’re gonna need some staff at some point,” he said.

Meanwhile the Range Recreation Civic Center in Eveleth was also a grant recipient. “A much needed relief for the four communities who own the building,” said Phil Drobnick, Treasurer with the RRCC.

The RRCC and its Curl Mesabi Curling Club lost roughly $50,000 thousand dollars in revenue last year from March to October, canceling events like weddings and conventions.

“You don’t really know everything until you lose it,” said Drobnick, “and when, once we lost it at the end of last year and that building’s just sitting empty — it’s really sad.”

Due to canceling this past curling season, they lost an additional $50,000 in revenue and $65,000 in lost dues, according to Drobnick, making the $105,000 grant even more necessary.

“We’ve got employees that we have working and continue to get bills that we have to pay through this season when we have nothing coming in,” he said. “We’ve had no income in over a year; we’ve had no income coming in for the foreseeable future.”

Much like the DECC, the money will go towards utilities, and the employees that have stayed on maintaining the building, owned collectively by the cities of Eveleth, Gilbert, Virginia and Mountain Iron.

More so, Drobnick says it’s a safety net for an unknown future.

“It’s challenging, but at the same time it’s needed relief but we still don’t have, with us not knowing when we’re gonna be able to open and when we’re gonna be able to safety host events it’s at least gonna help us to get through to the stage when we can start to do that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reinert says after the DECC lost $5.6 million in revenue last year along with hundreds of employees; the future is still on his mind.

“The question now is ‘how long will it take for the DECC to be the DECC again?’,” he said.

“That could be a two or three year period if we got to do it 100% on our own through earned revenue activities. We can really shorten that timeline if we can partner further with state, or federal government and just a little more assistance for some of the work we need to do,” said Reinert.

But both convention center leaders express gratitude the state government set aside money directly for these entities.

“I think this is a great way for the state of Minnesota to give back to us and we’re really grateful for it and thankful that everybody recognizes the importance of being there within these communities,” Drobnick said.

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