Walking into the council chambers Wednesday evening to hear the debate on the Fox Cities Exhibition Center proposed for downtown Appleton was like a flashback to another time and a similar issue.
That was in 1999. The issue was approval of the site for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and I was Appleton’s Economic Development Director.
Those opposed to the project argued the acquisition would cost too much, the project should be financed by private interests and cheaper locations could be found outside of downtown.
Forward thinking eventually won out on the PAC land acquisition. The project that resulted has been an unquestionable asset that infused new economic activity into the downtown and the Fox Cities.
Two weeks ago, we heard similar arguments against the city’s purchase of the site for the Fox Cities Exhibition Center. It also has potential to invigorate our downtown and our entire community.
I was back in the council chambers, now as President and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, along with Jeff Werner, our board chair. Our board has concluded that the Exhibition Center is an important piece for the community’s economic development and — with support from the area hotel/motel room tax — a good, safe investment. The Foundation has backed that up by committing to purchase $5 million of the bonds that will finance the project, and other institutions we’ve been in contact with also appear willing to invest.
We were there to remind the aldermen that complex initiatives like the Exhibition Center — and the PAC — take years to study and develop. The council’s vote to reconsider its earlier refusal to purchase the site gives aldermen that time to answer the questions they and their constituents have and reach a conclusion, as we have, after studying it thoroughly.
Curt Detjen is President and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Email him at [email protected].