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UW-Eau Claire students pass referendum to support Sonnentag Complex

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students voted this week to help financially support operations of the proposed more than $75 million Sonnentag Complex Event & Wellness Center after it is built.

A total of 61% (1,019) of the students who voted supported the referendum. During the three-day election, April 12-14, 38% (640) of students voted no. The referendum supported a fee of not more than $90 a semester for use and maintenance of the complex. Students would not begin paying the fee until building construction is completed and occupied.

"The student body of UW-Eau Claire has officially made their voices heard and they are in support of the new Sonnentag Complex," reported Anna Ziebell, UW-Eau Claire’s student body president. "I am so excited to continue the work to move this project forward. The students deserve a building that is accessible and sustainable for their big events, like graduation, concerts, sporting events and more. This facility will strengthen our community relations, give UW-Eau Claire a state-of-the-art event center, and overall, positively impact this campus's future."

The project will continue with finalizing the design and working through a detailed development schedule, including securing needed approvals from the UW System Administration. Construction of the complex on the land on Menomonie Street adjacent to Hobbs Ice Center and along the Chippewa River is expected to commence this year.

“Since the Sonnentag gift was first announced in 2014, generations of student leaders have collaborated with our partners to envision a facility that maximized benefit to our students and to western Wisconsin as a whole,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt said. “I’m proud to see students finalize their support for this visionary public-private partnership, which will benefit generations of Blugolds to come.”

The public-private partnership project would include a major events center that could replace 70-year-old Zorn Arena with a facility that has a capacity of up to 5,000 people. The center could be used for athletic events, concerts, other entertainment events and commencement.

Other planned amenities in the complex include a wellness/fitness center, 50/60-yard turfed field house and a Mayo Clinic Health System sports medicine and imaging clinic.

The UW-Eau Claire Foundation first announced John and Carolyn Sonnentags’ commitment of more than $10 million in land and gifts in 2014. Since then, they have made additional financial commitments to support the construction of the facility. Construction funding also is being sought from the city and other donors.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this critical step in the process,” added Kim Way, UW-Eau Claire Foundation president. “With the generous gifts of land and financing from the Sonnentag Family Foundation, followed by the support of the university’s students, we’re one step closer to making this project a reality. This is something that will meet not just university needs but also the needs of the entire Chippewa Valley region. We are deeply committed to honoring the students’ faith in this project and will deliver something about which they can be proud.”

The project partners include the Blugold Real Estate Foundation, a subsidiary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, Mayo Clinic Health System, the city of Eau Claire, Visit Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire.