Quinn: Palmer Arena revamp funds released

Quinn: Palmer Arena revamp funds released

DANVILLE — Gov. Pat Quinn stopped by the David S. Palmer Arena on Thursday to announce that the state is finally releasing $850,000 in funding to make much-needed improvements at the aging facility.

"We understand how important this building is to the people of Danville, Vermilion County and central Illinois," Quinn said to a crowd of local and state officials and community members. "This investment will ensure that this facility remains top notch for years to come ... and that it will be ready for all of the conferences, trade shows and events that will want to come here."

The investment, from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, is part of Quinn's agenda to create jobs and improve the state's economy.

The state partnered with local officials to build the Danville Civic Center, at 100 W. Main St., almost 40 years ago. It was later renamed for the late Danville mayor, who was instrumental in its development.

General Manager Peter Blackmon said the facility has hosted countless concerts and performances, conventions and expositions, sporting events and community events. But "after 40 years, the arena is starting to show its age."

In 2001, arena officials conducted a feasibility study and developed a capital improvements plan based on the study. It called for replacing the roof, air-conditioning and ice-making systems, replacing lighting with energy-efficient lights and improving locker room and banquet facilities, among other things.

Blackmon and officials from other civic center authorities, which had been frozen out of funding in state budgets, went to Springfield to lobby for funds.

"The funding was approved," said Blackmon, who credits then-state Rep. Bill Black for pushing for the money. "But we gave up on ever seeing it."

He said his board chipped away at projects when funding became available. He was pleasantly surprised on Monday to learn the state funding allocation was finally making its way to Danville.

"We were just having a discussion about the state of our building at our last board meeting," Blackmon said.

"Now we'll have to go back and take a look at everything and reprioritize what needs to be done," Blackmon continued, adding that modernizing the building will help it stay competitive with other regional venues. "We have accomplished some of the items on that list — replacing part of the roof, making a lot of energy improvements, replacing lighting. We'd like to reinvest in our ice machine, which is past its lifespan. That will help with our energy savings and with the longevity of that system."

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the investment will not only revitalize the arena, but also the city's downtown.

"The arena is a staple of our downtown corridor," he said. He added that the activities that are held there also "infuse revenue in area restaurants, retail stores, hotels and other recreational and tourism activities."