IDAHO FALLS – After more than a decade, construction on the new event center in Idaho Falls is officially getting underway.
During a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mountain America Center in Snake River Landing Tuesday afternoon, Rob Spear, the executive director of the Idaho Falls Auditorium District, announced construction on the 48,000-square-foot building will get underway immediately.
“I no longer have to dodge the question about when construction is going to start because it’s starting today,” Spear said to roaring applause.
Bateman-Hall/Hogan are the contractors for the project, which will include an arena and convention center for concerts and sporting events. It will also include a banquet room, premium seating and other amenities.
Centennial Management Group, based in West Valley, Utah, will operate the facility once it’s complete.
Spear tells EastIdahoNews.com the project is slated for completion in October of 2022.
“The word that keeps going through my mind is ‘finally,'” IFAD Board Chair Terri Gazdik told the crowd. “People kept saying ‘Are you finally going to do this?’ We are finally going to do this.”
Others in attendance during the groundbreaking include Governor Brad Little, Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, along with representatives for U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.
Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper noted the groundbreaking is happening 10 years to the day that voters approved this project with a little more than a 63% margin.
“Which is not quite a supermajority, but it’s close enough,” she said. “We had a celebration where we toasted that night at the Hilton Garden Inn. It was a great night because it was the start of something great. It just took a long time to get to where we are today.”
Despite the long journey in getting to this point, Casper says the Board has been actively involved in moving this project forward from the beginning and has put in a lot of hard work.
One of the project’s major setbacks was the construction management methodology, which Casper says wasn’t legal for public entities when this project was first approved in 2011.
“It was the efforts of Cindy Ozaki and other members of this district that made that possible and that is exactly the methodology that they’re using,” says Casper. “The board was not idle over the last 10 years. So, if anybody wants to roll their eyes like they took too long, don’t. They worked their tails off.”
Ozaki served as the executive director of the IFAD in 2018.
Another obstacle that prevented the project from moving forward was funding. A large bulk of the $64 million cost is coming from the tourism tax, a fact Casper pointed to as a major selling point for this project.
“It costs us nothing,” Casper said. “If you’ve traveled … and ever rented a car or stayed in a hotel room or done any visiting in another community, I guarantee you’re paying more than 5% on your tourism tax. It’s just a mere 5% here and yet look what good use that money’s being put to.”
Other funding is coming from sponsorships. Golden Valley Natural’s brand Hero Meat Snacks recently bought the naming rights of the arena within the Mountain America Center for $2 million. Mountain America Credit Union purchased the naming rights for the center in 2019 for $4.5 million.
Teton Auto Group, Bingham Healthcare, Cooper Norman and other businesses have made significant donations to the project as well.
Spear says about $7.2 million in sponsorships have already been invested in the project. The district will contribute another $4 million.
Jason Smith, Mountain America’s vice president of corporate sponsorships and events, referred to the event center as the crowning jewel of the community where people will be able to gather and make memories.
“This facility will serve as a beacon of Mountain America to be able to provide financial literacy free to the community and help them achieve their financial dreams for whatever path they want to take,” Smith says. “From athletic events to community events and everything in between, we want this to be a place that’s helping the community and making Idaho Falls a great place to be.”
Ball Ventures CEO Cortney Liddiard concluded the groundbreaking by saying he’s looking forward to seeing the first hockey game or concert in this venue.
“I’m so excited for our board that they’ve been able to deliver this long-awaited project for this deserving community,” says Spear.
The Mountain America Center is being built in Snake River Landing on the corner of Pioneer Road and Event Center Drive.