BEMIDJI -- Sanford Center staff hope to connect with local organizations and participate in more community activities in 2020 to celebrate a decade of the events center in Bemidji.
In a presentation to the Bemidji City Council last week, Tiffany Vickaryous-Hubbard, executive director of the city-owned facility, said staff will do 10 days of volunteering to celebrate the building's 10-year anniversary. The initiative is one several the Sanford Center is undertaking on 2020 to mark 10 years, including creating special year-long logo and hosting a community appreciation day.
"The goal for our team is to connect with the community more," Vickaryous-Hubbard told the Pioneer. "I think it's very important. All of us who work here, live here, and we do wonderful things in the community personally. We decided that doing things together as a team on behalf of the Sanford Center was also something we wanted to do."
The official 10-year mark will officially come in October, as the Sanford Center opened in fall 2010. The 193,000 square-foot facility includes both a 4,373-seat arena and attached conference space and is located on Lake Bemidji's South Shore.
The history of the event center, which is home to BSU's hockey programs, goes back farther than 2010, though. Originally known as the Bemidji Regional Events Center, the structure had been an idea for quite some time and in 2006, the city voted 2,227-2,182 to extend a half-cent sales tax to assist in the building's construction.
Since it began operations a decade ago, the Sanford Center has generated a yearly economic impact on the Bemidji area of nearly $20 million. In 2018, for example, the Sanford Center had an estimated $17.7 million impact on the Bemidji region.
But the center is not without controversy. As part of running the facility, the city invests a yearly amount to cover operating losses, with the amount in both 2019 and, if approved, in 2020 set at $450,000, while it was $400,000 in 2018. For 2020, the Sanford Center has budgeted a profit of $2.9 million and expenses at $3.4 million. When accounting for the city's annual investment, the net loss for 2020 is budgeted at $3,606, slightly higher than 2019's net loss of $3,001.
"We're not necessarily doing things the same every year, I think right now we're just balancing out for next year," Vickaryous-Hubbard said. "Budgets can vary year-to-year, and this is where we're comfortable with next year."
The city's annual operating investment, along with funding the facility's maintenance needs, comes from property taxes. To reduce the impact on property taxes, the city is looking at collecting more dollars from visitors through a proposed hospitality tax in the center's 10th year and beyond.
This year, the city has discussed approaching the Legislature for authorization to create a special use tax on food and beverages.
At its meeting on Monday, Dec. 16, the council is set to vote on the Sanford Center's budget and operating plan for 2020.