Build Me Up: The Future of the Iron Range with Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe
The City of Virginia, located along Minnesota’s Iron Range, is booming with new development projects. When Mayor Larry Cuffe took office in 2014, he was faced with a unique set of challenges that have been impacting Minnesota’s mining communities. High unemployment rates and the need for a more diversified local economy are challenges now made more complicated amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the City of Virginia has taken on multiple large-scale construction projects, including a complete rebuild of the Miners Event and Convention Center, bringing new life into the deteriorating facility that will serve as a gathering space for the region. Construction is also underway at the new Rock Ridge High School, part of a strategic effort to unite Virginia’s school district with its neighboring town in Eveleth for a modern, student-focused facility. Two new elementary schools will follow.
On the latest episode of KA’s Build Me Up podcast, Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe and Kraus-Anderson’s Tracy Pogue and Bob Fitzgerald discuss how the City of Virginia is positioning itself for the future of the Iron Range.
Rebuilding the City of Virginia
Mayor Cuffe, a retired police officer of 34 years, has witnessed his city’s population drop from a population of about 14,000 residents down to less than 9,000. Mining is the economic driver across the Iron Range, and its decline has highlighted the importance of investing in local infrastructure and diversifying opportunities in the area. The Miners Event and Convention Center, built in the 1950s, was an opportunity to put the City of Virginia on the map.
Kraus-Anderson worked closely with the City of Virginia to evaluate whether the declining facility should be renovated or demolished and rebuilt. The original Miners Memorial Facility was a staple in the community, which left Tracy and Bob wondering if Virginia residents would resist tearing down a facility that has hosted countless wedding receptions, events, and holds such historical significance. But after several community input meetings, the decision became overwhelmingly obvious: it was time to rebuild the decaying facility. The building, which was originally built for just basketball, was renovated over the years to include an arena for hockey on a low budget. Along with aging mechanical and electrical systems, the existing facility had reached the end of its lifespan.
The Future of the Miners Event and Convention Center
The Miners Event and Convention Center was designed with the future of the Iron Range in mind. Mayor Cuffe sees the new facility as an anchor for economic development. Designed by DSGW Architects, the 144,000-square-foot space will feature two full-sized sheets of ice, a convention and conference center, fitness areas for community and sports teams, and a walking track. The City of Virginia is putting itself at the forefront of the region for not only hosting large-scale events, but for creating jobs and attracting talent to the area. While the future of the Iron Range remains uncertain, Virginia’s strategic development is setting the city up for a prosperous future.
For a more in-depth discussion on the unique problems facing the Iron Range and how the City of Virginia is aligning itself for the future, check out the latest episode of KA’s Build Me Up podcast. You can subscribe to Build Me Up wherever you listen to podcasts.View Comments