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Record Gift to UWEC Would Help Provide New Sports and Events Center

John and Carolyn Sonnentag announced a gift of land and other donations totaling $10 million for new UWEC events complex
Dan Lea

The largest donation in UW Eau Claire history is part of a plan to build a new sports and events center.

John & Carolyn Sonnentag - longtime owners of County Materials in Eau Claire, announced a gift of land and other contributions totaling 10 million dollars

"...to give back to the institution that has given us so much," John Sonnentag said during a Tuesday news conference at County Materials.

UW Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt says while no plans have yet been made, the idea is to build a replacement for Zorn Arena, to be called the County Materials Event and Recreation Complex. The complex would accomodate up to 7,500 people for many different kinds of events.

"From Blugold basketball to commencement ceremonies for the university, CVTC, area high schools, concerts and many other events that Eau Claire has not been able to attract to date because of limited facility capacity," Schmidt said.

The gift includes 21 acres of land between Menomonie Street and the Chippewa River. There are also plans to purchase land owned by the Student Transit bus company next to Hobbs Ice Center as part of the gift. Schmidt said further funds would need to be raised, and students would have to approve the use of fees through a campus-wide referendum. Schmidt says the university's first priority is still the downtown Confluence Center, but it is hoped work could begin on the new complex within 5 years. The university has also had discussions with the Eau Claire YMCA about possibly locating their new center there and sharing some facilities. UWEC would also continue its agreement with Visit Eau Claire to make the center available for conventions and other events.

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