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Making of the MECC

With the expedient progress that has been made on the construction of the new Miners Event and Convention Center (MECC) in Virginia, one might find it hard to believe the beginnings of the new facility started more than 15 years ago. 

In the early 2000s, it became clear that the Miners Memorial Building was not meeting the community’s needs.  A state evaluation rated the building a “2” out of 5, where one is “obsolete” and 5 is “optimal”.  Miners Memorial was missing the mark in building, event, and mechanical operations.  The City of Virginia started looking for funding to renovate the building, but their efforts were thwarted when the economy went south.  Without resources, the renovations were put on the backburner. 

By the time the economy improved, the Miners Memorial building was deemed to be in disrepair and the ice plants no longer met environmental standards.  The community still had a strong desire to upgrade its event center, but an evaluation determined it would be cost more to renovate the building than it would be to build new. 

Five years ago, the city began seeking funds to build a new event center and was awarded $12 million from the state for either renovation or reconstruction.  The remainder of the funding came from voters, who overwhelmingly supported a 1% sales tax increase, moving the dream of the MECC closer to reality. 

Over the past few years, with the guidance of architects and construction managers, the city held public input meetings with user groups to create a design that meets and exceeds the community’s needs and allows for future growth in both the building and programming.  

The result, the Miners Event and Convention Center, also known as the MECC will be a 144,000 square foot facility, designed with three buildings under one roof, two arenas, and a convention center, that can work independently or together giving event planners an amazing amount of flexibility. 

The City of Virginia’s vision is to make this facility the preferred location for weddings, concerts, tradeshows, and meetings.  The MECC will provide a much-needed upgrade in the hockey and ice sport facilities and programming in the region, but also offers fitness and studio space along with facilities for the health and wellness of the community year-round.

The state-of-the-art convention center offers meeting and function space not currently available in the region. The convention center ballroom offers a generous 1,500 square feet of space that can seat up to 500 guests or can be divided into four smaller sections seating 100 guests.  Adjacent to the ballroom are two meeting rooms, a boardroom, and pre-function spaces.

After years of planning, the MECC team broke ground shortly after the state shut down for COVID.  The groundbreaking ceremony took place on May 28th of 2020, and construction on the project has been full steam ahead ever since.  “We have an awesome team of contractors that have made teamwork a priority to keep this project on track even through a pandemic,” explained City of Virginia Parks and Recreation Director, Brian Silber. “With the pandemic and anticipated delays in mind, the construction managers and contractors changed their process a bit, getting all the drawings approved ahead of time, before Christmas, to keep material deliveries on schedule and avoid a COVID delay.  We have had no lag time, everyone has been able to keep working and we are on track to open a month earlier than we originally thought, in September of this year.”

Silber has worked on many projects throughout his career, but the MECC has been the biggest.  “This has been a rewarding project from the start – from the community support to the excellent job done by our construction and trade teams.  Right now, we only have a few finishing touches left on the front of the exterior, and inside floor pours are done and walls are going up.  It feels like we’re in the home stretch, and we can’t wait to invite the community in for a first look at what is sure to become an important center for the region.”

“The MECC is a project that all of Virginia can be proud of,” shared Britt See-Benes, City Administrator.  “Virginia is a small, close-knit city, and so many people from our community had a hand in bringing this project to fruition, I know the MECC will be a source of pride for many years to come.”

The MECC will bring many opportunities to the city and region, from expanding the recreation programs and athletics, to hosting large events and conventions.  Leaning into its reputation as an “outdoor city”, the MECC is currently applying for grants to connect the facility to the nearby walking and biking trail system.  “The Iron Range offers amenities that can’t be found any other part of the country,” explained Silber, “the city offers all the amenities you need to host a great event – caterers, decorators, entertainment, even an airport just up the road, but it also offers an escape to the great outdoors just a few miles away.”   

The MECC will also offer ice bumper cars, a unique attraction that puts the fun of traditional bumper cars on ice, an out-of-the-box idea presented to the city by Silber.  “The MECC will be the first arena in Minnesota to offer ice bumper cars and will be the only arena in a 100-mile radius ever have them thanks to an exclusivity agreement with the manufacturer.  A year-round attraction like this will bring in extra revenue for our arenas, bring new people to town, and offer a lot of fun for all ages.”  Families will be able to start reserving ice bumper car parties mid-summer for dates after the facility’s grand opening in September.

The MECC is currently booking event space for all types of events and has already put several weddings, craft events, dinners, and an expo on the calendar.

For more information on the MECC or to reserve your event visit: meccmn.com, email events@meccmn.com, or call 218-748-7506.