There's a sense of forward motion in Eau Claire, the likes of which I have never felt.
The announcement of the County Materials Events & Recreation Complex (or C-MERC, as I like to say) has filled in a significant blank in the future project planning of Eau Claire. Even though I have basically been a Confluence Project supporter, I've been concerned about the lack of what I consider an important element of Eau Claire's amenities: a true convention center. If all Eau Claire did was build the Confluence and just a direct arena replacement for Zorn Arena (simply building a basketball/sports facility), the lack of a convention center would still loom, and we may have found ourselves in 40 years with white elephant-esque venues akin to today's Ray Wachs Civic Center.
Instead, C-MERC is more than an arena -- Mike Rindo goes so far as to say that the University is *not* referring to it as an "arena" -- and will include the capability to host conventions, trade shows and the like. In other words, it can both update Zorn for sports, AND Ray Wachs for conventions. All in one area. (As an added, likely unrelated bonus, the Civic Center is undergoing its own renovation at the moment which will allow it to serve its appropriate niche down the road.)
Thus, Eau Claire is about to take a notable step forward as a community. Growing a more-sophisticated arts culture and a more-involved athletic fanbase can make Eau Claire a destination and a base of loyalty, and knowing these two plans are likely to come to fruition will achieve these goals. At last, Eau Claire may finally be ready to shed the reputation of being the largest suburb in the middle of nowhere.