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Officials Tackle Monroe Convention Center Expansion Costs

Stakeholders fill the meeting room for the convention center expansion

Stakeholders fill a room as officials returned to talk funding of the convention center expansion project. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

The expansion of the Monroe Convention Center in downtown Bloomington is moving forward again. The project stalled a few times the past year as city and county officials couldn’t come to terms on how to work together.

A work session Monday night included the city council, mayor, county council, and county commissioners. The discussion focused on funding.

City financial advisors estimate it will cost $37 million to fund the expansion and connectors to the existing center and new hotel. Another $7 million would pay for the renovation of the existing convention center. Funds would come from the county food and beverage tax.

Officials centered in on the proposed $15 million 500 space-parking garage. Advisors say tax district revenue or other city funds would pay for the garage. City council member Steve Volan says user fees could help cover the cost, or the garage shouldn’t be built at all. Instead, Volan says they could use the money to run shuttles from other garages to the convention center. 

Convergence Design Principal David Greusel says additional onsite parking is a stakeholder top priority.

“It’s nice to speculate about we can run a 24 hour shuttle or whatever, but people are going to want to expect to park here and that’s just the reality of the market place,” Greusel says.

Officials say the garage would help draw more conventions and act as an incentive to bring in a hotel developer.

A preferred siteplan of the Monroe Convention Center expansion
An early preferred siteplan of the expansion project.

City council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith addressed the $7 million needed to renovate the existing center the county already owns.

The county elected to use its share of the food and beverage tax to fund other projects. Mayor John Hamilton confirmed the city is using its total allotment to fund the expansion.

County Attorney Margie Rice says the collaboration of city and county funding could move forward with the creation of a Capital Improvement Board.

“At some point there has to be a contractual agreement relationship between the two parties to make this work,” Rice says.

Hamilton says the design and build phase would take three years and suggests using the original steering committee to move forward.

But Commissioner Julie Thomas, along with the city and county councils, say the two councils should come up with their own agenda for another meeting at a time they choose.

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