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Events center boosters still selling hope

As someone who started out thinking the events center could be something great if it was designed as a civic center and gathering place for the public, who soured on the idea as it became obvious that it was just a cover for a BSU hockey rink, who became alarmed by the consultant reports saying we didn't have the population base to justify such an establishment, and, finally, became sickened by the tactics of the supporters of telling lies to get BSU students and others to vote for it and hiding the fact that the maintenance costs if it failed were going to fall on the beleaguered taxpayers of Bemidji, I take mixed pleasure in witnessing the slow, excruciating, crumbling of the dream that was the Big Mausoleum that hulks, unloved and underutilized on the south shore of our city's namesake lake.

Rather than reporting this crumbling in a piecemeal fashion, I wish the Pioneer would track the overruns, shortfalls, questionable transfers of city funds and abrupt resignations and firings of events center executives so that the public can stay abreast of the downward trajectory of this problematic venture. The wager right now by the city fathers and mothers is simple: Can we grow the city fast enough and sell its desirability hard enough to attract conventions and events to our mausoleum that will pay for its continued existence?

Third-rate Disney shows, geriatric '60s rock reunions and endless Christian troubadours won't do it. We need conventions and major events to feed this beast and its planned commercial spawn of hotels and franchise restaurants. Thus far, these conventions and events aren't coming, and there's no reason to think they will.

We're off the beaten track, hundreds of miles from freeways, with precious little to do in terms of entertainment once the conventioneers finish their conversations, meetings, and coffee and sweet rolls.

We can outsell Crookston, and, maybe, Grand Rapids. But we can't outsell Duluth, St. Cloud, Fargo or Grand Forks. We are, sadly, small potatoes in the convention world.

Right now, the events center boosters are still selling hope. But there's a lot of desperation and corruption showing up around the edges. It's time to look at what is causing this desperation and corruption. We, as the citizens, deserve an explanation. I challenge the Pioneer and our city officials to see that we get one.

Kent Nerburn