Weather Forecast


Bemidji Regional Event Center groundbreaking celebration set for Friday

The community is invited to take part in a day-long celebration Friday for the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

The BREC's official groundbreaking will kick off events at 11:30 a.m. at the former North Central Door site on First Street East.

"I'm excited about it," said Mayor Richard Lehmann. "It's been a long time coming."

Lehmann will speak at the groundbreaking and Steve Sviggum, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, also is planned to speak.

The program will continue at a luncheon at the Hampton Inn & Suites. The community is invited. The cost is $10 and reservations are needed by Tuesday to City Clerk Kay Murphy by calling 759-3570.

The BREC is the anchor of the south shore redevelopment, a 140-acre plot of land along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Also planned are 21 acres of commercial development, 11 acres of residential development, 18 acres of city parkland and a link connecting the Paul Bunyan State Trail.

The BREC project is expected to generate 200-250 full- and part-time construction jobs.

The design of the facility was done by Leo A Daly with support for several design consultants, including Widseth Smith Nolting; Damon Farber Associates; Stevens Engineering; Summit Fire Consulting; BAi, LLC; and Robert Rippe & Associates, Inc. Kraus-Anderson Construction is the project manager.

The BREC is planned to contain the following materials:

-- 1,600 tons of steel.

-- 2,500 bolts per each 200-ton truss (267 feet long by 30 feet deep).

-- 140,000 modular bricks.

-- 185,000 thin bricks.

-- 125,000 blocks of brick.

-- 12,000 cubic yards of concrete for the site and building.

-- 240 tons of rebar.

-- 65,000 square feet of precast concrete for external walls.

-- 1 mile of precast concrete for stadium seating.

Bemidji State University hockey will be the anchor tenant of the 193,000-square foot BREC, which will have 4,000 seats in the arena and the ability to accommodate 6,000 seats for concerts and shows.

The convention center will have a 10,000-square-foot dividable ballroom and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.

The BREC is slated to open in October 2010.

"I keep seeing the pictures of the event center and mock-ups at City Hall," Lehmann said. "It's just exciting to me that we're now going to have this facility in our community."

The celebration continues at 5 p.m. in Room 100 of Memorial Hall at BSU. A rally is planned as a show of support for BSU hockey. The first 1,000 participants will receive Bucky the Beaver bandanas.

The men's Division I hockey team is trying to gain admittance into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, the premiere hockey league for college hockey.

The WCHA executive committee will visit Bemidji Friday for a site visit. The group is expected in April to vote on Bemidji's entrance into the league.

The BREC, now coming in at about $44.3 million for construction, was approved by voters in November 2006 and the state Legislature approved state bonding dollars and the extension of the half-cent sales tax in 2008. The state first contributed $3 million for design work in 2007 and last year agreed to contribute another $22 million toward construction costs.

The Legislature supported the Bemidji project, in part, because of its job creation and partnership between the city and BSU.

Lehmann said the community reaffirmed its support for the BREC during the 208 elections, when voters elected, or re-elected, event center supporters to the Bemidji City Council.

"The community wants to see positive things in our community," he said. "This is a positive for Bemidji, a way for the community to move forward into the future in a positive way."

He also noted that the project will provide jobs for people living in and around Bemidji.

"(The BREC) will help enable us to meet the challenges of the future," Lehman said.