By Amelia Santaniello

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Large venues all across the Twin Cities are still sitting empty. From canceled concerts and conventions, WCCO found the cost to the local economy has been staggering.

Jim Ibister, the General Manager of the St. Paul RiverCentre saw the global fallout from COVID-19 early on.

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“We saw trouble very early. January, February,” Ibister said.

Like most, they weren’t prepared at the St. Paul RiverCentre for the toll it’s taken in the months since. Forty-six percent of the events on the books for the year have now been canceled.  The venue is officially closed through at least July.

From parking meters to hotels and restaurants, Ibister says it’s the ripple effects doing the most damage.

“Not just a particular large event but the mass feeding of the economic development feeding the community. That’s where the big impact happens,” Ibister said.

It’s a similar story at Xcel Energy Center where the first concert won’t take place, at this point, until September. In Minneapolis, Target Center lists an August 29 show.  TCF Bank Stadium’s canceled and rescheduled meetings’, conferences and banquets total 65.

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A spokesperson for US Bank Stadium told WCCO the majority of its events for the rest of the year have been called off.  They’re optimistic to host Minnesota State High School League Soccer and football playoffs this fall.

Target Field officials say 56 non-Twins events have been canceled due to the pandemic between mid-March through the end of August, including weddings, corporate meetings and luncheons, galas, receptions, proms, fundraising walks and town ball games. Two major concerts, including Guns N’ Roses, have been canceled. And 570 ballpark tours, with an estimated 21,784 attendees, were also canceled.

“That’s been the hardest thing. Just not knowing what the future will allow us to do,” Ibister said.

Back in St. Paul, Ibister doesn’t see the need to rush re-opening, as the RiverCentre gathers protective supplies and works through proper spacing plans.

“We’re not going to open up until we can do it at the highest level and keep people safe which is the ultimate thing,” he said.

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The CARES Act doesn’t specifically cover convention centers for relief funding from the federal government. Ibister says they are still trying to change that as they struggle to get back on their feet.  The RiverCentre has lost 85% of its staff so far to furloughs or other reductions since March.

Amelia Santaniello