Construction of Sonnentag Complex to begin this year

Students vote in favor of new sports facility and event center

The+Editorial+Board+feels+there+was+not+enough+time+for+students+to+knowledgeably+complete+the+referendum+survey.

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The Editorial Board feels there was not enough time for students to knowledgeably complete the referendum survey.

The Sonnentag Complex, a new sports facility and event center at UW-Eau Claire, is set to begin construction before the end of 2021.

From April 12-14, students had the opportunity to vote in a referendum in favor or against the new complex. The referendum passed with 1,019 students (61%) voting in favor and 640 students voting against (38%). This also included the consent of tuition to be raised by no more than $90.

Anna Ziebell, a fourth-year political science student and current student body president, said the $90 is per student per semester. However, tuition will not be raised until the building is complete and students have access to it.

The fee is likely to be less than $90, Ziebell said, and is necessary because it pays for maintenance and leasing of the facility. Because of the partnerships UW-Eau Claire has with the city and other entities for this project, it makes more sense to lease the space, she said. 

The fee will be added to the segregated fees in the non-alcable section of tuition, Ziebell said. Every year, the fees for leasing and maintenance of the building will go under review, so it will likely change from year to year, she said. 

“The fee will never be more than $90 per semester,” Ziebell said.

Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, said the facility will be located on Menomonie St. across from Carson Park. The project costs roughly $70 million and includes an event center, fitness and wellness center and a 50 to 60-yard turf field house, she said.

The Sonnentag Complex will be used for sports events and games, recreation and fitness and concerts and events, Way said. The purpose of the student fee increase is to mainly benefit the students, faculty and staff, she said. However, the community will be able to utilize it as well.

“This would replace Zorn Arena and its functionality as a community and event center,” Way said. “Eventually that facility will be torn down.”

The land it is being built on is worth about $10 million dollars, Way said. It was gifted to UW-Eau Claire by John and Carol Sonnentag, two alumni of UW-Eau Claire.

Way said the project is funded in part by the Sonnentags, the city of Eau Claire and other additional philanthropy. 

Before construction can begin, Way said that the university must first work with the design team and construction team. They will help determine and estimate how much it will cost. 

The UW System would then need to approve the fee and the lease, Way said. After that, there will be an “extensive” approval process with the City of Eau Claire. Finally, she said the university must gather $10 million of private funding.

Ziebell said she has been sitting on the Sonnentag Complex planning committee for two years. Her role was to get as much information as possible and also lower the fee as much as possible, she said.

“Because I have been working on this so long, I know why we need this,” Ziebell said.

The reason UW-Eau Claire needs the Sonnentag Complex, Ziebell said, is because the infrastructure of Zorn Arena is “crumbling.” She said she voted in favor of the new complex because there is no room for renovations or expansions of Zorn. 

Systems like the heating, ventilation and air conditioning are in bad shape, Ziebell said. In the past, people have fainted from heat exhaustion, so there are real health and safety concerns, she said, as well as quality.

With the Sonnentag Complex, there is a lot to look forward to, Way said.

“I am personally looking forward to one: watching the first graduation and two: watching our Blugolds play and have the facility full of our students,” Way said.

Plueger can be reached at [email protected]