Ayres contracted with the Blugold Real Estate Foundation to begin design of the Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex on the former County Materials Corp. site between Menomonie Street and the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The land was donated to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire by alumni John H. and Carolyn O. Sonnentag for an approximately 300,000-square-foot event and recreation complex to serve the entire community. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the Eau Claire YMCA, and Mayo Clinic Health System formed the Eau Claire Community Complex Inc. to guide the project to completion and then jointly operate the facilities.
Ayres’ involvement with the project began with providing the Foundation general site planning, environmental evaluation, and conceptual-stage architectural services for the event and recreation complex. The proposed 130,000-square-foot major event center will hold events such as Blugold athletics, regional athletic competitions, concerts, tradeshows, and conventions with seating for 4,500 to 5,000. The size and capacity of the events center is based on a market analysis comparing the Eau Claire market to venues in similar-sized Midwest cities. The potential market is approximately 330,000 people within a 60-minute drive of Eau Claire.
The Eau Claire YMCA and UW-Eau Claire will develop a 150,000-square-foot recreation facility connected to the event center that will house a fitness center, a competition natatorium for the UW-Eau Claire and YMCA swimming programs, a family leisure pool, a jointly operated therapy pool, flexible gymnasium space, a gymnastics center, racquetball facilities, academic space, and daycare and before- and after-school youth care.
Also in the central area of the development will be the approximately 24-000-square-foot full-service Mayo Clinic Health System Sports Medicine Center providing care in sports-related injury diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, as well as performance training, nutrition, counseling, and academic support.
Ayres’ architects and engineers are working with subconsultant Kahler Slater on the design of the event and recreation complex and site.
Ayres provided planning services including identifying and analyzing requirements of governmental authorities with jurisdiction to approve the project, evaluating the site’s flood status, analyzing the institutions’ program needs, and providing site development options and comparative studies for each alternative.
After meeting with planning staff from each organization, Ayres developed a 3-D building model of the conceptual arrangement of the various elements of the overall building. This building model was applied to the site, and alternative circulation and parking scenarios were developed. A robust 3-D fly-over animation and renderings were then developed to convey the large-scale design to potential donors, the media, and the public.
The events center calls for a versatile design to accommodate multiple types of events and activities, including serving as a home for UW-Eau Claire men’s and women’s basketball games, men’s hockey games, athletic tournaments, large indoor concerts, festivals, conventions, and other entertainment and sports events. In addition, there have been discussions about incorporating an attached hotel.
The new events center’s location in close proximity to Hobbs Ice Center and Carson Park will create an appealing recreation and events district that will further advance the value of the development and its benefit to the community. The shared wellness, recreation, and fitness facilities capitalize on a growing focus on community health and wellness. The ability to share recreation and fitness facilities enables the organizations to create better and larger facilities than what they could accomplish on their own and eliminates unnecessary duplication.
Located directly adjacent to the Sonnentag Complex will be the Big River Education and Student Housing building, for which Ayres is providing developer Hoeft Builders schematic designs for the 100-unit building. The design includes studio units and two-, three-, and four-bedroom units with laundry in each unit, multi-purpose common areas on each floor, and a large outdoor patio overlooking the Chippewa River. On the main level will be a small restaurant and the Blugold Foundation River Education Building. The education area will provide UW-Eau Claire students with canoe and kayak rentals along with a climbing wall and other outdoor educational programs. The current project timeline is for construction of the Big River building to begin in fall 2018 and finish in June 2020, with Sonnentag Complex construction proposed for 2019 and 2020, paving the way for a 2021 opening.
Services Ayres provided during the early stages of the project included environmental and grant services, which began with conducting asbestos and lead based paint assessments, hazardous materials surveys, and Phase 1 and 2 environmental site assessments/site investigations at the former County Materials and Student Transit sites along Menomonie Street, the proposed site for the complex.
Ayres wrote EPA cleanup grant applications and analyzed brownfield cleanup alternatives for the County Materials and Student Transit sites. We assisted with a successful application for a $500,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Idle Industrial Site Redevelopment Grant and a $400,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to be used for remediation and demolition at the former County Materials and Student Transit properties.