New Idaho Falls event center now $500,000 closer to financing needs
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IDAHO FALLS — The long-awaited Mountain America Center got a major financial boost from a local company Tuesday.
Teton Auto Group donated $500,000 to the Idaho Falls Auditorium District, which has spent the better part of a decade planning and collecting funds to construct a large auditorium. Earlier this year, the auditorium board determined they needed another $2.5 million before work could start on the project. This contribution is a significant step toward that goal.
“We’ve been watching this project and trying to find a way to get involved for quite for some time now,” Teton Auto Group President Mario Hernandez said. “Through the efforts of the people who are doing the hard work, we were able to come to terms with a significant contribution to help keep the momentum moving forward in this.”
Last year Mountain America Credit Union purchased the center’s naming rights for $4.5 million, getting the project closer to construction. In January, the district announced plans to begin construction in March. However, that didn’t happen as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic impacted the district’s primary revenue source — hotel bed taxes.
“A major hurdle to starting the construction of the building has always been the funding of this project,” Idaho Falls Auditorium District Board Chair Terri Gazdik said. “Downturns in hotel revenue collections this year directly impacted our project, but no COVID subsidy money was given to this project to help and yet we continue to move forward.”
Gazdik said in the last four months, private enterprise has contributed more than $1 million to the project. Admiral Beverage, a local producer, and distributor of Pepsi products, is among them. They also contributed $500,000.
Rob Spear, executive director for the district, explained the board has several outstanding proposals to help secure the remaining funding. He believes the Teton Auto Group’s $500,000 contribution will hopefully serve as a boost to close those deals.
“Once we close this financial gap, we are going to make this thing a reality,” Spear said.
With the contribution, the district has changed the outside design of the facility to include a Teton Auto Group Plaza. The outside space alongside the building measures about the length of a football field and is about half as wide. Artistic renderings show the car dealer’s logo on signs and several of its vehicles positioned outside.
Once completed, the 48,000 square-foot events center will seat up to 5,500 people in various changeable configurations. Some 27,000 square-feet of the building will be an arena. The Auditorium District hopes this arena will be the home of a hockey team, but it could also be used for court sports and other events. Additional space in the facility will be designated for a meeting space to hold conferences and trade shows.
“This is just the beginning,” Hernandez said. “What we like is a long-term relationship with things that have an impact on us, where we live, where our employees work, where our customers are and provide a little bit better lifestyle for Idaho Falls and the surrounding area.”