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Mayo Civic Center shifts focus following cancellation of large events

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Large event centers have taken a huge hit because of the pandemic, but some facilities have found ways to make use of their large spaces to help the communities they serve.

And as soon as those large gathering events were canceled, the Mayo Civic Center quickly changed its focus.

"We shut down for about two days in March, right around March 10, and that's when we jumped right into our civic duty," said Mayo Civic Center General Manager Joe Kollar.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, when the need for space and distancing grew, the Mayo Civic Center has served as a temporary homeless shelter, a distance learning center for area youth, and currently a vaccination clinic.

"We were reached out to right away," Kollar said. "The most obvious thing was to find the biggest amount of space you could if you were going to host something, be that a community driven thing, tournament of some kind, sporting event, a meeting. What you need is space and that's certainly what we had available."

But even though the Mayo Civic Center was able to keep some operations going, it still lost a lot of money.

"Well, in general when it comes to the beginning of the pandemic, it's been over $4 million in revenue from events," said Experience Rochester/Mayo Civic Center President Joe Ward. "So from a small event up to the large ones, about 300 events have been canceled."

Inside the Mayo Civic Center, things have looked very different over the past year.

"We've been seeing groups in here, but it's a different purpose from what we would normally do," Kollar said. "You go from being an entertainment and meeting venue to essentially serving the public is a bit of a change."

As more Minnesotans get vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen, things at the Mayo Civic Center will gradually become more active in the coming months.

"You know right now, of course we're doing the vaccination clinic and today we'll have crossed over 12,000 people who have been vaccinated here, but even this weekend is the Rochester Area Home Builder Show," Ward said. "So they are going to be working within the constraints of the pandemic regulations from a health standpoint. But we are welcoming people this weekend."

Ward says there are 15 shows already booked for the third and fourth quarters of this year, so the light at the end of the tunnel is near.

Sarah Gannon

Sarah Gannon

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