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New convention center coming to the Iron Range

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VIRGINIA, MN -- Officials on the Iron Range are working on a project that they say will bring an economic boom.

Blueprints are drafted for a brand new convention center in Virginia, with construction expected to begin in just a couple months.

It would replace the current Miner's Memorial Building, which city officials describe as old, problematic, and un-accommodating.

"We've evaluated doing renovations, and concluded that it's not as cost-effective in the long run to renovate as it was to do new construction," said Brian Silber, the Director of Parks and Recreation in Virginia.

The new building set to take its place is a roughly 115,000 square foot facility called the Miners Event Convention Center.

"We will be able to do more programs and more events up here on the Iron Range than we've ever been able to do in the past," Silber said.

The facility will be built on the Virginia High School football field.

It will feature an ice rink that doubles as an event arena, ballrooms, and a fitness center.

"We want to make sure it's not just a hockey arena, that's just a small piece. It's a community-based place where everyone can come and grow. It's going to be an economic boom for the community," said Virginia Mayor, Larry Cuffe.

Officials say $12 million of the $32 million needed for the building is funded through a bonding bill passed by the state legislature in 2018.

Virginia taxpayers are on the hook as well.

"The sales tax in Virginia went up by 1% at the start of January, and the funds from that over the next 20 years will be going towards the debt service on this new project," Silber said.

Officials say this has been a long-time coming, and that the center will be the first of it's kind on the Iron Range.

"We plan on putting a shovel in the ground hopefully by the end of April of this year, provided we're able to get some budget issues worked out. Some adjustments to be made in the design build, but overall it's almost ready to go," Mayor Cuffe said.

Construction will be a lengthy process, with completion set for Fall of 2021.

Jenna Wells

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