The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center emerged Monday as one of the biggest beneficiaries of a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development relief program when it received news it will be provided with $500,000 in aid. That's the maximum grant possible through the COVID-19 assistance program.

In all, DEED set aside $4.6 million to prop up convention centers across the state, with the DECC in line to garner nearly 11% of that sum.

The Range Recreation and Civic Center in Eveleth was awarded $105,000 through the same program.

Northland cinemas also will receive a financial lifeline, as DEED announced still another $8.54 million in Movie Theater Relief Grants.

The Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community, which operates two movie screens in downtown Duluth, has been awarded $30,000 in aid, and West Theater LLC, which operates a single-screen movie theater in Duluth's Spirit Valley neighborhood, will receive $15,000.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Meanwhile, Marcus Cinemas of Minnesota and Illinois Inc., which operates multi-screen theaters in Duluth and Hermantown as well as in other communities across the state, has been awarded $740,000.

DECC Interim Executive Director Roger Reinert called the grant "fantastic news."

But to put it in perspective, Reinert said: "Keep in mind, up to this point, the only assistance we've received is a $49,800 grant through St. Louis County, set against a $5.6 million revenue loss in 2020."

Nevertheless, Reinert said he was elated with the grant.

"We still are seeking partnerships, as we look to move forward and emerge from the pandemic. But the question of whether we will survive the pandemic really isn't hanging over us anymore," he said.

Reinert said the state grant comes on top of news that the DECC will have nearly 68% of its unemployment liability reduced through federal funds. "And we're working with (DEED) Commissioner (Steve) Grove to hopefully have the remainder forgiven under statutory authority," he said.

Reinert said the grant combined with the prospective relief of unemployment costs "really would be a game changer."

"It would put us on really stable financial footing as we move forward," he said.

"There's a lot of latitude in how we use those funds. They can be used for staffing. They can be used for operations. They can be used for a lot of different things," Reinert said.

"This past weekend was our busiest weekend since before the November executive order that really limited our capabilities. And at the end of the month, that will be our busiest week since before the start of the pandemic. So, things are really starting to move in a positive direction," Reinert said.

Zeitgeist Executive Director Tony Cuneo also welcomed news of the $30,000 grant his organization will receive.

"It means the difference between being able to put people to work to continue to pivot programming so that it works during the pandemic and plan for programming that will continue to work post-pandemic," he said. "We'll put a lot of that into ensuring that people get hours and can go back to work."