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Dave Olson, Published March 05 2014

Tourism official says Fargo convention center a necessity, wherever it goes

WEST FARGO – For Charley Johnson, the question of where Fargo should build a new convention center isn’t as important as getting the project done.

Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he’s often asked his personal preference for where a convention center should go, with a downtown location or one near the Fargodome being sites most talked about.

Speaking at the Convention and Visitors Bureau annual awards and appreciation luncheon Wednesday, Johnson said he has resisted voicing a preference.

“My primary concern is that we get an attractive, well-designed facility spacious enough to serve our communities well into the future,” he said, adding that there is no doubt the space is needed.

“I can tell you we are leaving conference business on the table because we don’t have places to squeeze them in,” Johnson said.

When a site decision is made, Johnson said it will be important for the entire community to get behind the plan so the Fargo-Moorhead area can better compete with other cities in the Upper Midwest for convention business.

“Honestly, I could debate myself to a draw over the pros and cons of either the Fargodome or downtown as a location. Either one works for me,” Johnson said.

Awards given out Wednesday and the recipients of those honors included:

• Community Service Award, Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel.

The award is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to tourism promotion, development and hospitality in the past year.

• Countrypolitan Award, West Acres Regional Shopping Center.

Brad Schlossman, CEO of the shopping center, accepted the award, which is given to the organization that has contributed the most to tourism promotion, development and hospitality during the year.

• Heartland Pride Award, Greg Tehven.

The award is given to an individual or organization that makes a significant effort to bring a major convention, conference, meeting or special event to Fargo-Moorhead during the year.

Johnson described Tehven as a driving force behind growth in the area, especially downtown Fargo.

• Sports Minded Award, U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Jon Kram, general manager of the Scheels Arena, accepted the award.

The award is given to the group or individual responsible for a sporting event that had a significant impact on tourism promotion, development and hospitality during the past year.

• Always Warm Award, Craig Bohl, former North Dakota State University football coach; Gene Taylor, NDSU athletic director; and Steve Strege, executive vice president of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association.

The award is given to individuals who made a significant contribution to tourism promotion, development and hospitality during a career in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555