The Sonnentag Complex is a public-private partnership to construct a major event facility, a 24-hour fitness/wellness center, fieldhouse and a Mayo Clinic Health System sports medicine clinical location. First envisioned in 2014, the complex is moving forward in the spring of 2021 and will replace UW-Eau Claire’s Zorn Arena to become the largest indoor event venue in northwestern Wisconsin.
The UW-Eau Claire Foundation announced in August 2014 a commitment of approximately $10 million in land and money from UW-Eau Claire alumni John and Carolyn Sonnentag and their family foundation. The Sonnentags have made a substantial commitment of additional funds beyond their initial gift to stimulate more philanthropy and student support. The 21 acres along the Chippewa River donated by the Sonnentags was being used as a manufacturing and sales site by County Materials Corp., their third-generation family-owned concrete manufacturing business. The gift was intended to help UW-Eau Claire replace Zorn Arena and provide value to the broader community through the larger events and performances made possible by a modern event facility.
The event facility design is highly versatile and would accommodate multiple types of events and activities, including serving as a home for UW-Eau Claire men’s and women’s basketball games and other athletics tournaments, large indoor concerts and other entertainment or sports events. UW-Eau Claire students also will benefit from a two-story, much-needed fitness/wellness facility that will alleviate pressure on overutilized and undersized on-campus recreation and sport facilities. The convenient location also is accessible from the Chippewa River Bike Trail that connects to campus and a bus route to ensure access for all students.
Mayo Clinic Health System will construct a new clinical location as part of the complex, where they plan to offer sports medicine, human performance enhancement, and imaging services.
As currently envisioned, the complex will include:
- a major event facility with projected capacity between 5,000 and 6,700 people;
- UW-Eau Claire wellness and recreation facilities;
- four sport courts suitable for basketball, volleyball, etc.;
- a Mayo Clinic Health System clinical location offering sports medicine, human performance enhancement, and imaging services;
- a 50-60 yard artificially-turfed fieldhouse;
- a public park spanning the distance between Menomonie Street and the Chippewa River;
- surface parking to serve the entire complex, including electric vehicle charging stations; and
- land suitable for complex expansion or development of private businesses that could complement and serve activities at the event and recreation complex.
The complex is envisioned as a beacon of sustainable design, with all components benefitting from forward-thinking construction and utility concepts. The major event center is being designed as a resilient facility suitable for service as a community shelter in the event of large-scale emergencies or disasters, with solar panels and storage batteries to sustain operations during power outages.
The Sonnentag Complex site will also develop a park that features solar benches, pollinator plantings, and potentially other solar energy installations while increasing ease of access to riverside bicycle and pedestrian trails. Following completion, Blugold Real Estate will donate the park land to the City of Eau Claire.
Blugold Real Estate, a supporting entity of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, acquired additional land adjacent to the site, which is south of Menomonie Street across from the entrance to Carson Park. From east to west, the Sonnentag Complex site now includes the former locations of Student Transit-Eau Claire, County Materials Corp. and Fabick Cat.
The donated land’s proximity to existing sports and recreation facilities, including Hobbs Ice Arena, Carson Park’s multiple sporting venues, and the YMCA Tennis Center, positions the Sonnentag Complex as a key development in Eau Claire’s existing sports corridor.
Project partners include Blugold Real Estate, Mayo Clinic Health System-Northwest Wisconsin, the City of Eau Claire, Visit Eau Claire, and UW-Eau Claire. Development efforts are coordinated through Eau Claire Community Complex, Inc., the non-stock, non-profit corporation that will build and own the complex and lease space to the key tenants. As this is not a state building, UW-Eau Claire students will consider a referendum in April of 2021 to establish a fee to secure the university’s ongoing commitment and access to the facility.
Construction of the Sonnentag Complex is anticipated to begin in 2021. The Chippewa Valley YMCA, originally a partner in Eau Claire Community Complex, Inc. and the Sonnentag Complex, announced they were choosing not to participate in construction after assessing their fundraising policies in December 2019. In January 2020, the city of Eau Claire signed a letter of intent to participate in the project in conjunction with Visit Eau Claire. The project development was paused in April of 2020 as project partners focused on leading their organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed in February of 2021.
For more information, contact:
- Kimera Way, Blugold Real Estate Foundation, 715-836-5180
- Brad Kemis, Market and Johnson, 715-832-8752
Header photo caption: (Left to Right) Women’s basketball coach Tonja Englund, John Sonnentag ’66, Carolyn Sonnentag ’67, men’s basketball coach Matt Silverling, and Athletic Director Dan Schumacher pose for a photo following the 2014 announcement their donation of $10 million in land and money would go toward a public-private partnership to replace Zorn Arena. The 21 acres of land they donated sits between the Chippewa River and Menomonie Street across from the entrance to Carson Park, and is the former Eau Claire site of operations for County Materials Corp.—the Sonnentag’s third-generation family-owned concrete manufacturing business.