City of Dickinson is moving forward with an event center feasibility study.
At a special meeting Tuesday, city commissioners met with Joel Feldman and Callie Edwards, consultants with Minneapolis-based Convention, Sports & Leisure.
CSL will determine if Dickinson can support an event center, and what components would be best suited for the facility.
"Their report might say, this is a shoo-in, you should do this no matter what anybody tells you," City Administrator Joe Gaa said. "Or, this is an okay idea, but you probably need to get these players more involved. Or, you should never do this."
The consultants are reaching out this week to local businesses, organizations and vendors, and will also be contacting prospective event center users.
"Beyond those local connections, we're going to be doing a lot of phone interviews of potential user groups," Feldman said, "whether they're promoters for concerts or family shows, touring acts, public and consumer shows. Some of the events that are not necessarily coming here."
Mayor Scott Decker advocated attracting state tournaments, such as Class A basketball.
"We all know where it sits. It sits on the eastern side of the state, almost predominantly. The closest it gets to us is Bismarck," he said. "What is the viability if we have an extra sheet of ice or a basketball court with X amount of seats? Is there an opportunity to get that tournament on a rotation basis?"
He added, "Those are the kinds of things we'll have to go after."
A key drive for Decker is bringing the state's yearly oil expo, usually held in Bismarck of Grand Forks, to western North Dakota.
"It's never in the west," he said. "Guess where all the oil comes from?"
Suggested as a possible site is the 27 acres at Fairway Street and State Avenue, adjacent to the Biesiot Activities Center.
Originally rodeo grounds, the site was cleared for a proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, which is now going to Medora.
"To me, that in itself would be the prime location," Decker said. "It's a central location, and it's pretty close to everything."
The event center would be multi-purpose, hosting conferences, conventions and performing artists.
"There has to be a cultural impact. Now you're attracting acts that can be anywhere from pop music to country music," Decker said. "To capture that, 'We're leaving Minneapolis, Dickinson is the stopover before we get to Billings.' Do they play us because we're that gap?"
He added, "The community is hungry for entertainment. You just have to do it right."
An event center would draw from southwest North Dakota and southeast Montana, but more is needed, Commissioner Carson Steiner said.
"To make this a success, we're going to have to draw from Bismarck," he said. "We need them to figure out, it's just a 100 miles for us to go there. That's going to be key."
Dickinson is no longer a retirement community.
North Dakota has the highest per capita of millennials in the nation, Decker said, referencing an article in June from MoneyRates.com.
"The national average is 38 years, and North Dakota as a whole is 34 years," he said. "Williston is leading at the lowest with 32. I'd say we're probably right behind. We're very young."
Dickinson also boasts many growing companies, such as CHI Alexius Medical Center, TMI Systems, Steffes, and Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing.
To fund the building, the city is pursuing corporate entities, Decker said.
"I've made no bones about this. This is not going to happen unless we can find a major donor to put their name on the building," he said. "That's the way buildings work nowadays."
Dickinson Convention & Visitors Bureau, which supports the hospitality industry and works to attract businesses and events to the community, supports creating an event center.
"While there are local facilities in Dickinson that are able to host events, not all events can either fit in those facilities or match a schedule," CVB Executive Director Terri Thiel said. "An analysis of costs, that include continued operations, and the community need of such a facility, will provide information for the city commission to make a decision."
Dickinson Parks & Recreation Department also supports the launch of a study.
"I think the city is doing the right thing by exploring the potential of an events center," Parks Director James Kramer said. "An event center would be another great addition to the quality of life in our community, but you still need to be fiscally responsible and make sure we can financially support its operations."
The feasibility study will cost roughly $34,500, with the results expected to be returned in September.