A new performing arts center for Fargo?

Fargo Civic Center

The goal of the task force is to develop a design and private fundraising strategy for a performing arts center, with a recommendation presented to the City Commission this spring.

In its third official meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, the group considered potential locations for a 2,500-seat performance venue, with an interest in re-purposing the Civic Center, which was the focus of a 2015 feasibility study that’s now guiding ongoing discussions.

But some members of the task force voiced concerns over the condition of the Civic Center, 207 4th St. N., and whether it’s the best option.

Task force member Jeff Schatz, former Fargo Public Schools superintendent, said he wants a better sense of whether the building is dilapidated and if a private developer would be interested in the building now that it’s without Centennial Hall, which was demolished to make room for the new City Hall.

“Can the city maintain the capacity to have a performing arts center and a Civic Center?” Schatz said. “I personally don’t think the Civic Center should be standing if we have a performing arts center.”

John Strand, a city commissioner and task force co-chair, said one idea he’s heard of is a private developer creating a dinosaur museum at the Civic Center. Strand also brought up the national downward trend in performance arts center activities and raised the question of whether the community could support such a venue.

Task force member Rob Sobolik, who manages the Fargodome, said there’s interest from touring shows to come through Fargo and there are limitations at the dome, with a lot of availability only Monday through Wednesday. A performing arts center would be able to host more touring shows that could be in Fargo for a week-long run, he said.

The 2015 study suggested that shows at the Fargodome and Civic Center could be held at a new performing arts venue. It listed local groups, such as concert and event promoter Jade Presents, Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra and Fargo-Moorhead Opera, as potential users of the space.

Task force members are recommending the city and JLG Architects reach out to stakeholders and potential users of a performing arts center to gauge interest and how much they would be willing to spend on using the space. Members are also suggesting that a performing arts center, wherever it may be located, has the ability to host meetings and weddings.