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CHANGES AHEAD: Civic Center director says losing UJ games won’t hurt the facility

SIDEBAR Civic Center built in 1973 The Jamestown Civic Center officially opened on Oct. 28, 1973. Floyd Curtis, a former Jamestown alderman, said the project was first discussed in the early 1960s before he served on the Jamestown City Council. A...

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Pam Fosse is the director at the Jamestown Civic Center. John M. Steiner / The Sun

SIDEBAR

Civic Center built in 1973

The Jamestown Civic Center officially opened on Oct. 28, 1973.

Floyd Curtis, a former Jamestown alderman, said the project was first discussed in the early 1960s before he served on the Jamestown City Council.

After the Gladstone Hotel was destroyed by fire on March 27, 1968, the City Council began the formation of an Urban Renewal Authority to help rebuild the hotel and to build a new indoor arena and business center. The authority set aside a 5 1/2-block area, the area in which the Civic Center, Jamestown Business Center and Gladstone Inn & Suites are now located.

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Curtis said Sen. Milton Young, R-N.D., secured federal funds to help build the Civic Center. On Nov. 18, 1968, Jamestown voters approved $1.43 million in bonds to fund the project. The project received another $1.29 million in donations and funds from other sources.

Curtis said the community needed the Civic Center as a way to bring people to Jamestown.

"We're sandwiched between Fargo and Bismarck and Aberdeen (S.D.)," he said. "We needed something here."

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Editor's note: This is the first of three stories on the Jamestown Civic Center.

For decades the Jamestown Civic Center hosted Jamestown High School and University of Jamestown basketball games and other sporting events. In 2004, the Blue Jays home basketball games moved to the new Jamestown High School.

Next year when the Harold Newman Arena opens on the University of Jamestown campus, the Civic Center will find itself without regularly scheduled Jamestown High School or Jimmies basketball games.

Facility adapts in changing times

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Jamestown Civic Center Director Pam Fosse said the center has survived over the years because it has adapted as things have changed. She said the situation the Civic Center staff will face next year when the Harold Newman Arena opens is the same situation the center's staff went through when the Blue Jays started playing most of their basketball games at Jamestown High School in 2004.

"It (UJ basketball games leaving in 2017) is nothing we weren't expecting," she said.

Fosse said with the college basketball games going away, there will be more opportunities to have in-house events on the days and times that would normally be set aside for UJ basketball games.

"Realistically a lot of the events we can do in-house, like the rodeo, craft shows, they are family events and have to be weekend events," she said.

Fosse said generally the Civic Center is booked on the weekends year-round. She said in addition to in-house events, there may be more opportunities to book larger conventions as there are more hotel rooms in Jamestown.

City Councilman Ramone Gumke said the Civic Center staff has done a good job in finding and recruiting events. He said the Civic Center has a good variety of different types of events that don't just cater to one interest.

"If you look at the Civic Center's calendar as a whole, there really aren't too many weekends where it is free or available," he said. "I think they have done a good job of keeping as much coming in the door as possible."

Civic Center strengths

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For events such as conventions, meetings, agricultural training and other similar events, Fosse said the Civic Center's No. 1 asset is its location.

"Oftentimes conventions will find their attendance here is greater than if they hold it say in the northwest part of state," she said. "We are an easy drive and centrally located."

She said the Civic Center has good customer service and can present some flexibility for events. The Civic Center can also run events simultaneously within the building. For example, it can have meetings and conventions on one level and hold other events on another level or in separate rooms.

Fosse said all of the equipment at the Civic Center is new, updated and top of the line. The Civic Center also has a new basketball floor, scoreboards and seating.

"All of those things just make for a better event," she said.

Gumke said the strengths of the Civic Center are its capacity - about 6,500 - and price value for events that need a place to be held.

"There really aren't any facilities that can compete or compare for the cost for somebody looking to come in and have an event," he said. "It is reasonable."

Challenges and improvements

Mayor Katie Andersen said one complaint she has heard from larger groups or businesses that might consider using the Civic Center for a convention site is the lack of a major retail center.

"We don't have a West Acres (referring to West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo)," she said.

Andersen said she thinks if Jamestown could get another "big box" retailer to locate in Jamestown, it would help fill that retail-center gap. She said the city has received some attention from other large retailers, especially after Menards opened last year, but most lost interest when oil prices started dropping in 2015 and the state faced an economic downturn.

Fosse and Andersen said the Civic Center has always had, and always will have, challenges.

"We can't compete with the larger arenas in Fargo and Bismarck," Fosse said. "So we concentrate on what we do best, our customer service."

Andersen said the city made improvements to the Civic Center over the last 43 years, including recent work to add new seating and improving the lighting, heating and security systems. She said the city did look at how much it would cost to cool the building and found that cost couldn't be justified for the amount of revenue that would be created from the improvement.

"That may change in the future as the facility's use changes a little more toward the convention side and a little less on the sports arena side," Andersen said.

Gumke said one of the challenges is finding events that aren't repetitive to keep people interested in coming to the Civic Center. He said one area the Civic Center has missed out on in the past because of the sports schedule is concerts.

"We host very few concerts at the Civic Center," he said. "I think there is a lot of musical interests and tastes out there where bands who cater to those tastes are suited for a venue the size of the Civic Center."

One of the challenges the Civic Center has is meeting the needs of events on occasion in relation to space or breakout rooms. Fosse said the Civic Center doesn't face too many challenges with different events coming in, but staff is able to provide what is necessary for the events. If the Civic Center does not have the equipment an event needs, staff will locate or outsource the equipment or find it from a different source.

Assistant Editor Masaki Ova contributed to this story.

Thursday: The Civic Center's budget

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