A couple of Saturdays ago a group of us had a wonderful time experiencing Bemidji State University Football at Chet Anderson Stadium on the shores of beautiful Lake Bemidji. It was a perfect 60 degree October day with calm winds and several boats fishing for the elusive Walleye. Nobody disagrees that the stadium has a lot of charm.
This Saturday while watching our hometown heroes take on Winona State University on Fox Sports North at Winona, the announcers continually commented on how beautiful a stadium Winona has. It seats 3000, has 8 luxury suites, has all aluminum bleachers along with artificial grass, excellent locker room facilities, and lighting. Which started Bemidjimike thinking….how did Bemidji State draw the short straw with MNSCU (Minnesota State College and University system) on funding Athletic Facilities…not only MNSCU’s failure to build a hockey facility for our Division 1 program, but football as well.
Let’s do a quick circle around the state. We know Mankato’s Blakeslee Stadium is where the Minnesota Vikings practice…so the facility there are top notch. 7000 seats, all aluminum with wonderful press, locker room and training areas. University of Minnesota Duluth has a 4000 seat stadium with a beautiful track surrounding it, artificial grass, again great lighting, locker room, press facilities and aluminum bleacher seating. Minnesota State Moorhead Alex Nemzek Stadium has a 2 tier huge press facility, 6000 aluminum seats with an all grass field and a beautiful track. St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium is a brand new facility with seating for 4198, artificial turf and an inflatable bubble to make it into a all season domed stadium. Even lowly Crookston has a 2000 seat newer stadium with track, great lighting and a natural grass field.
Now enters Southwest State. With $11 million dollars given to them by the 2006 Minnesota State Legislature, they are building a state of the art community regional event center (model is pictured above) which will host cultural, educational, and social events along with sports. The following is from the Southwest State University Website (http://www.southwestmsu.edu/EventCenter/) which gives you an idea of their plans.
During the 2006 Minnesota Legislative Session, $11 million in state funding was set aside for design and construction of the Southwest Regional Event Center on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University. A stipulation of receiving the state appropriation is that it must be matched with at least $5 million in private funding.
Because the event center will be a significant force in economic development throughout rural Southwest Minnesota, business and industry led by The Schwan Food Company have committed to raising private contributions.
The Regional Event Center will provide an attractive, multipurpose venue to house and support an array of activities ranging from community and regional economic and cultural events, to entertainment, educational and sporting events. In addition, the Center will provide a venue for university and regional convocations, exhibitions, presentations, and graduations. In summary, the Center will create opportunities to attract and host cultural, educational, commercial and sporting events.
By providing a Regional Event Center that will attract all types and sizes of events, citizens of Southwest Minnesota will have a year-round facility, and an equitable stake in accessing a diverse range of cultural, social, educational and sporting activities.
Conference facilities on the second floor will serve as viewing suites for field-level events, meeting areas for conferences and convocations, and additional sites for a myriad of events. The Center will have a state of the art media/press facility that will serve as an instructional area for the University’s Communication Broadcast programs.
Events held at the Center will annually attract thousands of visitors, and their disposable income, from a five state region. Consequently, Southwest Minnesota will become a destination location that offers a broad range of amenities essential to economic development, increased income, and employment and employee satisfaction.
A Call to Action
Alumni, friends and the business community are being asked to meet the challenge of raising the private dollars required to complete the Regional Event Center. Click here to support the Regional Event Center.
(boy…what does this sound like!)
A couple of points. MNSCU is a large important governing body of higher education in the state. Their budget is enormous and they control the purse strings. It seems to me as a casual observer that Bemidji State Athletics has come up on the short end in more than one sport…not just a hockey center. Chet Anderson Stadium basically was erected in 1940 for $172,000. The last major upgrade to this stadium was made in 1989 with a new grass playing surface installed and a scoreboard. That’s it folks. Most teams don’t even use the locker room facilities, they just go to the end of the field. Maybe its time for our legislative delegation and business community not only to put a squeeze on getting an event center, but upgrading other athletic facilities for BSU. Its our turn for the money!