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First phase of Monroe Convention Center approved Friday


The Monroe Convention Center is scheduled for construction. The convention center is used for large gatherings such as meetings, conferences and weddings. Nora McMahon Buy Photos

A steering committee approved the first phase of Bloomington and Monroe County’s plan last Friday to expand the Monroe Convention Center. 

The first phase is meant to include community members in the conceptual design of the project, which outlines the building's functions, according to the architects’ presentation at the Friday meeting.

Architects will meet with stakeholders in early March and have public meetings at a later date to hash out the community’s desires and concerns. The group of stakeholders includes about 250 Bloomington community members. Construction will start in about a year, city council member Chris Sturbaum said.

“The more people they talk to, the more information they’ll have,” Sturbaum said. 

Sturbaum is one of four elected officials on the Convention Center Steering Committee for Accountability, including Monroe County council member Cheryl Munson, Mayor John Hamilton and County Commissioner Amanda Barge. The committee also includes five appointed citizens.

Munson and Sturbaum said the stakeholders include people, organizations and businesses who use the convention center, including IU.

The controversial 1 percent Food and Beverage Tax that went into effect in February 2018 will help fund the convention center expansion. On Jan. 22, the advisory commission for the tax approved using Food and Beverage Tax money to hire an architect and pay for other initial planning costs. By law, the commission must approve all spending of tax money.

The Bloomington City Council must also approve of the tax money use before the city pays the architect any money. 

The estimated cost of the whole project is $30 to 40 million, Sturbaum said.

Munson said the stakeholders also include organizations and businesses who may use the convention center in the future because of its expanded size.

“This is not just a convention center,” Munson said. “It is, and will increasingly be, a civic center.” 

Sturbaum and Munson said they were impressed with Convergence Design, the architecture firm the city and county have agreed to partner with.

“I think they’re excellent,” Munson said. “They have a big job ahead of them. People want something that’s a bold architectural statement but also something that will fit into Bloomington.”

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