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Come one and come all: New Event Center has Maynard locals abuzz

The new Event Center in Maynard drew a crowd during its opening. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

MAYNARD -- Just after he opened the building's doors, Mayor Richard Groothuis of Maynard assured a visitor that the community's new event center could comfortably accommodate 320 guests.

Within an hour he had proof.

Monday open house for the new facility attracted a full house, a telling turnout in a community with a population of 388.

"We're very excited about the new building,'' said Alyce Ahrends, who was among those who came for cake and a light lunch to celebrate the town's new addition.

"It sure makes our Main Street look a lot better,'' added her tablemate, Brenda Ashburn.

Improving the city's downtown was among the reasons that Maynard pursued funding to open new event center. The structure replaces two aged and vacant buildings that were razed last September.

Groothuis said he originally had hoped to see the old buildings restored for their historic character, but reality said otherwise. The most "optimistic'' estimate for restoring the old buildings and bringing them to modern codes was over $1 million. "And we'd still have old buildings,'' said the mayor.

Instead, the community now has a brand new facility with lots of room and a façade that is winning praise from townsfolk. The center will be available for everything from weddings and community gatherings to meetings for local companies. Its presence offers opportunities for catering services by local businesses, including Budger's Diner and Deb's Food Service.

The facility will also serve as a community shelter during emergencies. It holds a small meeting room that would serve as a command center with independent communication connections.

The event center was made possible when Maynard and Clara City worked jointly to obtain small cities development funds.

The neighboring Chippewa county communities were successful in obtaining $1,061,474 in grant funds for a variety of commercial, housing and public building improvements, according to Jacki Anderson, a planner with the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission who assisted the two communities.

The project, one of the first of its kind awarded by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, included $233,500 in grant monies and an equal amount in low interest, USDA rural development loan funds for the event center.

Maynard will take advantage of revenues from an existing, tax increment financing district in the community to retire the long-term loan, said the mayor.

He believes the Center will benefit the town not only by attracting more activity and business. There's a real value in the message sent by an improved downtown, he noted.