FARGO — A task force exploring the possibility of a new performing arts center in downtown Fargo continued conversations Tuesday, May 14, saying it's received positive feedback from stakeholders about the plans. Though, some key details are still up in the air.
The proposed venue lacks a price tag, timeline and design plans, but task force members have a preferred site at the existing Civic Center, 207 4th St. N. Plans include demolishing the center — built in 1961 — and constructing a new 2,500-seat performance venue that could connect with the city's skyway system.
Five years ago, Fargo contracted with Chicago-based HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Consulting to study the feasibility of a performance center in Fargo. HVS recently reviewed that study and reached out again to community stakeholders to gauge interest and demand.
A majority of stakeholders offering feedback were associated with Fargo Public Schools. And while there's excitement about the venue, schools wouldn't be bringing in revenue like Broadway shows or touring productions, which the venue is geared toward hosting. Other tenants would be local symphony, opera and ballet organizations.
The study noted that the existing Civic Center auditorium regularly hosts concerts and shows, but is unable to host desired fine arts performances in a modern, state-of-the-art venue.
City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said the analysis by HVS shows the venue would be financially viable and break even, but it would be a challenge working with tenants that would not bring in much money. "If we build a really nice facility and no one can afford to rent it, it's not going to be very busy," he said.
HVS managing director Tom Hazinski said the venue would be a regional draw up to a 120-mile radius, leading to overnight stays and generating an annual $5 million economic impact for Fargo. He said the greatest impact would be on residents' quality of life and attracting more people to live here.
Funds for the venue would come from donations and fundraising efforts, but Piepkorn said architects and task force members need to determine the cost before asking people for money. He also raised the issue of parking, to which Jim Gilmour, the city's director of strategic planning and research, said existing and future parking ramps throughout downtown would accommodate guests of the venue.
The task force is set to hold its final meeting June 11 and is expected this fall to present to the City Commission a recommendation on the performing arts center.