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DULUTH – In their pitch to prospective clients, staff at the convention center here used to advertise the facility’s proximity to Lake Superior and tourist-friendly Canal Park. Now they boast about ventilation and square footage.
“Right now our single greatest asset is our physical space,” said Roger Reinert, interim executive director of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC).
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting statewide shutdown have been particularly painful for many of Minnesota’s largest venues, whose industry revolves around the very behavior health officials are urging the public to avoid. Convention centers have spent months sitting mostly empty, racking up bills without taking in revenue.
Arenas and banquet halls designed to hold thousands must comply with the state’s 250-person cap on indoor events. Those in charge of facilities across Minnesota are starting to wonder what the future looks like for the car shows, concerts and hockey games they rely on financially.
Steve Grove, commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), said the continued spread of the virus makes it difficult to know when the state guidelines might relax.
“Overall, we just want to see Minnesotans mask up, wash their hands and stay distanced from …
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