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Devils Lake convention center faces challenges, study finds

DEVILS LAKE--A proposed convention center/hotel project could be successful in Devils Lake, but it likely would face some challenges, according to a recent study.

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DEVILS LAKE-A proposed convention center/hotel project could be successful in Devils Lake, but it likely would face some challenges, according to a recent study.

Such a convention center would have the best shot at succeeding if it would be attached to a hotel and accommodate groups of 100 to 150 people, Steve Powell, CEO of Destination Services, St. Charles, Mo., told Devils Lake civic leaders this week in a preliminary report.

"We would have to be very strategic in our planning and marketing," said Suzie Kenner, executive director for the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We would have to tailor it to smaller meetings."

Powell recommended a 12,000- to 14,000-square foot convention center with an estimated price tag of about $4 million.

The full study, which is expected to be completed within two weeks, also recommends the convention center have space that could be divided into a larger assembly room, plus adjacent breakout rooms, Kenner said.

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"That's what we lack in town," she said.

Potential risks of such a facility are limited night life opportunities in Devils Lake and its location in the northeastern quarter of the state, according to the study.

Kenner said officials will wait for the full study to be delivered before discussing options.

The study included a public survey with 32 questions.

"(Powell) got a very good response rate," Kenner said. "With that, he was able to give us a very detailed explanation of what he thought would work. He was very positive. But he was very outspoken on the risks. We would have to have a very strategic plan."

Devils Lake officials have been considering a potential convention/events center for the past few years.

In 2014, voters rejected a city sales tax increase that would have funded separate projects.

That proposal included a $6.8 million, 47,500-square foot convention center along the U.S. Highway 2 business corridor and a $16.7 million, 71,250-square-foot community wellness center at Lake Region State College.

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Following that rejection, the Devils Lake City Commission and Forward Devils Lake invited proposals from private developers. Two proposals were submitted: one from Kaeding Development Group and by City Plaza Properties.

Kaeding owns several hotels, including the Holiday Inn Express in Devils Lake. City Plaza is a locally owned indoor shopping mall in the former Wal-Mart building.

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