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Phew! DECC project finally begins

After a decade of tedious planning and three years of persistent, sometimes-frustrating lobbying at the Minnesota Legislature, the ceremonial start of construction yesterday for the $80 million Duluth Entertainment Convention Center expansion cou...

After a decade of tedious planning and three years of persistent, sometimes-frustrating lobbying at the Minnesota Legislature, the ceremonial start of construction yesterday for the $80 million Duluth Entertainment Convention Center expansion could be summed up in two words: sweet relief.

Not that the man at center stage was necessarily overcome with such emotion.

"Everybody else had that. I didn't," DECC Executive Director Dan Russell told the News Tribune editorial page. "Look, the Minnesota Twins waited 11 years [for their stadium project to become reality]. The Minnesota Vikings are further away from a plan now than they were five years ago. We had a very clear plan from day one, and we didn't waver, and we didn't change up, and we didn't panic. We said [to lawmakers in St. Paul], 'We'll be back,' and we were. And the third year was a charm.

"It is very exciting," Russell allowed as a heavy equipment operator prepared to tear apart the DECC parking lot that'll become a 475-vehicle ramp that'll sit next to a shiny new 6,600-seat hockey arena, the new home of the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. Full-fledged construction -- with beeping trucks and hard hats and towering cranes -- is to start next week when the new arena's final designs also are to be unveiled. The construction project is one of the largest ever for Duluth.

So exciting, indeed. And on several fronts. The project creates 300 much-needed construction jobs through the end of 2010. When completed, the new DECC will be able to better attract world-class entertainment and will be able to book bigger conventions. The facility will be a draw that will bolster Duluth tourism, especially in downtown and Canal Park. And, with a bevy of green features, the attraction won't be a burden on the environment.

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For the next two and a half years, clanging and rumbling and banging will be common reverberations across the Duluth Harbor Basin. The sound of construction. The sound of progress.

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