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Civic Center Funding From State Still has Glimmer of Hope

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MANKATO , MINN. -

Mankato's quest to upgrade the Verizon Wireless keeps taking blow after blow.

Last night, the Minnesota Senate passed the bonding bill without an inclusion for the civic center upgrade. This after the House passed its own bonding legislation.

But there's still a glimmer of hope for getting the cash, even after the legislative session.

When it comes to seeking the money, the legislature keeps tightening the purse strings on plans to upgrade the civic center.

"It's unfortunate," said Anna Thill, president of the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitor's Bureau. "It just could add so much more potential to this metropolitan-statistical area."

But aside from some of the bad news, MSU was able to score.

Richard Straka, MSU vice president for finance and administration says if the bill is signed by the governor as is, the school will get about $2 million to design a new clinical sciences building.

"Right now we're very excited about getting that planning money and moving forward to institute the campus of the future, " Straka said.

Aside from MSU, Mankato City manager Pat Hentges says he's not happy with the legislature shooting down the proposal to upgrade the civic center.

"This certainly is a setback," Hentges said.

But there is still hope for the Verizon Wireless Center and here's why.

In the current legislation, approximately $50 million is set aside for projects with a local-regional economic impact. Now if the bill passes as is, and the governor doesn't veto it, officials say the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has the authority to decide who gets that money and just how much of it.

"It's not dead, and I think it's very critical--the other major point is the need is still there," said Hentges.

Thill points out that if the civic center is not upgraded, the Mankato area will keep taking economic blows.

"We're turning business away left and right, because...we don't have enough space for convention business or we don't have enough space to bring in certain concerts," Thill said.

If the bonding bill is signed by the governor as is, officials say DEED will allocate the special bond money before the end of fiscal year 2012.

Officials says other cities seeking civic center money will also likely apply for the special funding, since no civic center projects were specifically denoted in the bonding bill.