The Ranger - June 17

department of iron range resources and rehabilitation

The Ranger 

June 17, 2020

First phase of demolition paves way for new event center in city of Virginia

Ewens Stadium Demolition

Ewens Athletic Complex was demolished earlier this month to prepare for construction of the new Miners Event & Convention Center (MECC). The demolition was supported by a Commercial Redevelopment grant to the city of Virginia from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.

When completed in October 2021, the 117,000-square-foot facility will include a convention center and community gathering spaces for meetings and events of up to 1,500 people. There will be two hockey and figure skating arenas. One of them features year-round ice capability and a walking path around the perimeter.

Miners Event & Convention Center Rendering

“The MECC will meet a great community and economic need in our city and region for venues that can host a variety of public and private events,” said Brian Silber, Virginia’s Park & Recreation Director. “The facility’s versatility creates spaces for everything from concerts, wedding receptions and trade expositions to community education classes, craft fairs and family reunions. The facility may also serve our region in times of crisis. It will be equipped with infrastructure contingencies to handle communications and shelter for emergencies, neighborhood evacuations and natural disasters.”

The original Miners Memorial building was built in the 1950s. The complex included an ice arena and Virginia High School’s track, football and baseball fields. Failing and outdated infrastructure of the facility, coupled with growing demand for a variety of community events made new construction more viable than a renovation. In addition, the consolidation of Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert school districts into one combined Rock Ridge Career Academy in 2023 will result in Virginia Schools no longer needing its own football field and track.

Miners Event & Convention Center Groundbreaking

“The city of Virginia has long viewed public recreation and community spaces as vitally important to our residents’ quality of life,” said Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe. “The citizens of Virginia gave us the unique opportunity to build MECC when an overwhelming majority of them voted for the new sales tax. The facility will serve our community and region by potentially attracting new businesses and residents, increasing property values, and providing healthy activities for adolescents and people of all ages.”

Total project investment is $32 million which includes $20 million from a citizen-approved 1% sales tax that went into effect January 2020, $12 million from a 2016 Minnesota Legislature bonding bill, and a $144,000 Commercial Redevelopment grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. For grant information email Chris Ismil or call him at 218-735-3010.

Pictured six feet apart at the May 27 groundbreaking are state and city of Virginia officials: Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Deputy Commissioner Jason Metsa, Councilor Steven Johnson, Sen.  David Tomassoni, Councilor Julianne Paulsen, Mayor Larry Cuffe, Councilor Charlie Baribeau, Rep. Dave Lislegard, Parks and Recreation Member Greg Gilness, Councilor Carl Baranzelli and Councilor Gary Friedlieb.

MacRostie Art Center renovates gallery space

MacRostie Art Center

MacRostie Art Center (MAC) updated the flooring, lighting and fixtures of its Art Shop to elevate it as the focal point of the facility. The renovated gallery space, which features the work of local and regional artists, is now a prominent retail storefront that can attract tourists and other visitors.

“For years the Art Shop was much less visible within the MacRostie Art Center,” said Executive Director Katie Marshall. “Neighboring businesses in the Grand Rapids downtown district have been investing in renovations to their storefronts and shops. It was time for us to join the progress being made and become a more prominent part of the retail landscape.”

MacRostie Art Center

MAC is a 50-year-old nonprofit that presents monthly exhibitions, provides art classes for all ages, and supports artists through grant writing and technical assistance. The Art Shop is MAC’s retail division that supports local artists through a space to sell their work on consignment.

“We believe art is central to the quality of life and economy in northeastern Minnesota,” said Marshall. “Arts and culture organizations in our region generate about $12 million annually in economic impacts. Grand Rapids is growing as an active art hub in the region, and the transformation of the Art Shop adds to that growth.”

MacRostie Art Center

A study in 2018 by the Minnesota Citizens of the Arts confirmed the connection between art and economic development.

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a Culture & Tourism grant through taxes paid by Minnesota’s mining industry. Email Danae Beaudette for Culture & Tourism grant information or call her at 218-735-3022.

Upgrades at Orr’s entryway improve community’s first impression to thousands of tourists

Orr Tourist Information Center

The city of Orr updated the roof on its Tourist Information Center replacing aging cedar shakes with an energy efficient and modern roof system. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a Culture & Tourism grant through taxes paid by Minnesota’s mining industry.

“The new roof tremendously improved the building’s appearance and the Highway 53 roadside corridor that leads into and out of Orr,” said Cheri Carter, city clerk and treasurer. “The overall physical appearance of a town is extremely important to tourism because it is the first impression visitors have of a community.”

Orr is located along Pelican Lake, a 1,546-acre body of water with 54 miles of shoreline, 13 resorts and over 50 islands to explore. The small timber and tourism-based community is also the gateway entry point to Voyageurs National Park, a year-round destination of interconnected waterways and trails. The prime location results in thousands of visitors stopping in Orr for gas, groceries and information as they embark on their northern adventure.

Email Danae Beaudette for Culture & Tourism grant information or call her at 218-735-3022.

$7 million in COVID-19 relief funding available to businesses and communities in northeastern Minnesota

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Service Ara

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation has dedicated $7 million in loan and grant funding to help area businesses and communities that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taconite Area Business Relief Loan Program

Businesses located within the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation service area are eligible to apply for 2% interest loans of up to $40,000 to be used as working capital or any legal purposes. No repayment on the loans will be due for the first six months, followed by 60 payments of principal and interest. Eligible businesses must have been in operation for at least one year and operating on March 1, 2020. Applicants must intend to re-open if currently closed due to the pandemic. It is anticipated that this program could assist approximately 200 local businesses.

The loan program is funded at $5 million. The Entrepreneur Fund is administering the program. 

View the loan guidelines.

Taconite Area Community Relief Grant Program

Cities, townships or tribal units of government located within the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation service area are eligible to apply for a grant that serves as a lending program to businesses within that community. EDAs, HRAs, joint powers boards and community nonprofits are eligible to apply as a community’s fiscal agent. Grant applications will be competitively evaluated, and awards to communities could range from $50,000 to $400,000. Applications will be accepted through July 6, 2020.

The community grant program is funded at $2 million.

View the grant guidelines and eligibility criteria.

Internet survey available for Laurentian, East Range and Tower areas

Keyboard with Survey Key

Utilizing the school district boundaries of the Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert, Mesabi East and the northern portion of St. Louis County Schools, local leaders from the Iron Range communities located within those boundaries have come together to study ways to improve broadband and internet services.

Through a grassroots fundraising effort sponsored by the local townships, the East Range Joint Powers Board, Minnesota Power, PolyMet Mining, and a number of other local entities, with generous matching support from the Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), the committee hired NEO Connect, a broadband consulting firm, to assist with the planning activities.

BBC, which was designed to advance broadband in rural Minnesota communities, is a collaboration among Blandin Foundation, St. Louis County and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, residential internet service has increased by 92%. The pandemic has magnified the need to have reliable, affordable and robust internet service at home, to support telecommuting, online education and telehealth applications and much more.

An internet survey is available for residents in the area to provide feedback and information about the level of services currently available, how the internet is currently being used by residents and what is most important to community members regarding high speed internet services. All residents are urged to participate and provide their input.

Take the survey.

The Ranger is a publication of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. Our mission is to invest resources to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota.