City Council approves Sonnentag Complex terms

Eau Claire City Council unanimously approved term sheet for development of Sonnentag Complex.

Thomas DeLapp

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On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Eau Claire City Council approved a term sheet moving forward with development of the Sonnentag Complex.

In the term sheet, which was unanimously approved by the City Council, the city agrees to contribute a total $5.98 million to development. This will be divided in two parts: $2.4 million during construction, and an additional $3.58 million for various purposes after construction.

In addition to the City, the term sheet is contingent on other parties, including Blugold Real Estate, Eau Claire Community Complex, and UW-Eau Claire.

City Council President Terry Weld said the collaboration between the city and the university was an “incredible opportunity,” which will produce great benefits for both.

 “We’ve really appreciated the community partnership we’ve had with the university,” Weld said. “We’re fortunate to have that relationship.” 

Moving through development includes navigating a variety of city processes and approvals, Kim Way, UW-Eau Claire Foundation president and executive director of University Advancement said.

 The first step was the Parks and Waterways Commission, Way and Weld said, which also unanimously approved the site plan. 

The Sonnentag Complex, which will be located on Menomonie Street across from Carson Park, has been planned since 2014, when alumni John and Carolyn Sonnentag made a donation supporting the development of a new athletics and events facility to replace Zorn Arena.

 Despite numerous delays over the years, a student referendum was held last year for students to vote in favor or against the Sonnentag Complex.

 Gaining a 61% approval rating from 1,019 student voters, the referendum was passed, along with a consent for a tuition raise of $90 per semester when the building is completed.

 Student criticism of the turnaround occurred, which The Spectator addressed in an interview with relevant UW-Eau Claire personnel.

 Way called the $90 per semester fee an “enormous return on investment” and said if the university alone wanted to fund a similar project, funding would be entirely on the backs of students.

 “I think it’s a very good example from the university on getting things done,” Way said. “You collaborate, you don’t put the responsibility or burden of funding on any one entity, it’s shared, and that impact is substantial.” 

Weld spoke to many benefits and opportunities offered by the Sonnentag Complex, some of which are highlighted within the term sheet.  The Complex will be run by UW-Eau Claire, with collaborations between the Mayo Clinic and the Pablo Center.

UW-Eau Claire will be required to schedule an annual minimum of 10 Pablo Center events at the Sonnentag Center, and the city will be allowed to use the Complex for up to 15 athletic tournaments per year.

Both Weld and Way said the Sonnentag Complex will bring business and opportunity to the Eau Claire community and to the university.

“There are a lot of opportunities for outside venues to come in, like entertainment,” Weld said. “It will generate a lot of business in the city. All these things are an opportunity for our community and for the surrounding area. In the end, it’s a wonderful asset for both the campus and Eau Claire.”

Andy Jepsen, director of Recreation and Sport Operations, said Sonnentag will bring many pieces of wellness together — from team sports to opportunities for intramurals, club sports and fitness classes.

“It’s really a game changer for us at sports and recreation,” he said. “I can’t emphasize the opportunities enough.”

Way said the next steps include finishing up going through city approvals before moving “aggressively and assuredly” to construction bids and contracts, set on construction beginning Spring 2022.

“We are very grateful to students for their confidence and support of this project,” Way said. “While it’s taken some time to get everything together, and we wish we could have gotten it done sooner, the final product is gonna be something that will make everybody really proud.” 

The term sheet for the Sonnentag Complex can be read in full here

 DeLapp can be reached at [email protected]