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Federal funds target Mayo Civic Center and Chateau Theatre upgrades

Nearly half a million dollars will be used to extend outdoor facilities at the Mayo Civic Center as well as make restroom upgrades for added capacity at the Chateau Theatre.

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The Night Market is one of a variety of community events that could see benefits from plans to expand electrical service from the Mayo Civic Center into Mayo Park with the addition of concrete pads for vendors.
Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — Nearly half a million dollars in federal investment has been earmarked for improvements at Mayo Civic Center and Chateau Theatre.

A $468,699 federal Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation grant was recently approved using American Rescue Plan funds.

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“They look for projects that they think will provide enhancement to facilities where tourism is a huge component of their business,” Rochester Deputy City Administrator Cindy Steinhauser said of the funding for the two city-owned facilities.

The grant will create concrete pads connected to electrical service for food trucks and other vendors in Mayo Park, behind Mayo Civic Center, as well as a new marquee at the center.

The funds are also expected to make improvements to restrooms in Chateau Theatre as Threshold Arts ramps up operation efforts in the historic venue.

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Joe Ward, president of Experience Rochester and Mayo Civic Center, said the enhancements at both spaces will provide benefits when it comes to attracting future business to the city.

“It will help us have other creative options for conventions,” he said, pointing to the outdoor pads as a way of extending services at the Civic Center and Threshold Arts as a potential meeting place for groups that want alternative options in the city.

“Increasing the capacity of the Chateau will allow us to pitch that,” he said.

Naura Anderson, executive director of Threshold Arts, said the updated restrooms, which could include additional facilities for easier access during large gatherings, will be key when it comes to holding larger performing arts events.

Chateau Theatre
Chateau Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

For now, Threshold Arts has opened the theater to a variety of uses and is working to increase activity since signing an operating agreement with the city earlier this year .

“Within the next two weeks, there will be some pretty significant changes in activity, at least in the front portion,” Anderson said, adding that regular hours are expected to be established soon.

“Leading into the holiday season, we want to have more of a retail presence here, so folks who are downtown can drop in, see some art, do some shopping and enjoy the space,” she added.

However, the schedule is being held open starting mid-January to allow time for the planned restroom work that will make way for increased activity in the spring.

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Ward said it’s unclear when work can start on the concrete pads, which will be placed aside existing paths in Mayo Park.

Steinhauser said the goal is to have them in place for community events next year, which would include the Down by the Riverside concerts and the event that inspired the plan.

“It was really inspired by the Night Market events that were held last year at the Mayo Civic Center and how they literally drew thousands and thousands of people,” she said of the pitch to add electrical connections in the park.

Planning for the new marquee is also underway, Ward said. Tentative plans call for placement near the Rochester Civic Theatre entrance of the civic center, but final city approval will be needed.

He said the goal is to create a sign to advertise upcoming and current events at the center, with a design aimed at pedestrians but also visible to drivers in both directions on Civic Center Drive.

In announcing the federal funding, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith said the funding is a way to ensure Rochester’s tourism industry has needed resources.

“The travel and tourism industry is starting to bounce back after a tough few years, but many small businesses are still hurting from the pandemic,” said Smith, who served as chairwoman of the state's Destination Medical Center Corp. board before being appointed to the Senate office. “These improvements to the Mayo Civic Center and the Historic Chateau Theatre will help accelerate the recovery of the travel and tourism industry in Rochester and support economic activity and jobs in the area.”

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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