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Civic Center celebrates 20 years
April 18, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
In 1993, local developer Irving Rushall and a group of investors presented the Gering City Council with a plan to construct a Civic Center at the corner of 10th and M Streets – and the Gering Civic Center is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“The Civic Center was a lease-to-own arrangement, which the city has since paid off,” said Rick Keller, Civic Center operator. “Since we opened, we’ve continued to grow every year and it’s been really good for the community.”

The first function hosted in the Civic Center in 1993 was a “soft opening” hosted by Rushall for all the subcontractors that worked on building the facility, about 250 people.

Keller was the facility’s first caterer, coming on board in 1993. The manager was Alan Doll, who had a background in building and opening hotels for one of the nation’s larger chains.

“Alan had the knowledge they needed during the construction phase,” Keller said. “It worked well and he stayed on as manager once we opened.”

In 1998, Keller made a successful proposal to the city council to take over as operator of the Civic Center. “We’ve covered a lot of ground in 20 years, hosting about 600 functions a year,” he said. “And the functions have been growing is size over the years.”

An architect’s formula for function size estimated the Civic Center would average about 350 people per event. “At first they thought we’d struggle to hit that number, but we got there right away and started filling the room constantly,” Keller said. “Two years ago, we were able to remodel and move a wall, which gave us room for 500. We’ve been having that many people consistently.”

“Over the years, we’ve developed repeat clients, such as HOG, the Harley Owners Group, who are coming back this summer,” he said. ‘We work with the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has turned into a great partnership for us. We can offer full conventions and travel package deals.”

In the early years, the Civic Center was primarily a venue for family and class reunions and wedding receptions. That’s grown into more and more conventions, including the Nebraska State Republican Party Convention, which came to Gering in 1996. They’ve also hosted the National Red Angus Convention and have professional groups from Lincoln coming on a regular basis, such as the Nebraska School Board Association and the Nebraska Healthcare Association.

“The Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln used to be the premiere venue a few years back,” Keller said. “It was a real compliment at the time when people compared us to them.”

The Gering Civic Center staff invites past and present clients and friends to an evening of food and entertainment to help celebrate the center’s 20th anniversary. The event is on Friday, April 26 from 5 – 8 p.m. at the Civic Center. Please RSVP by April 24 by calling the Civic Center at (308) 436-6888 or by email at judyk@geringciviccenter.com

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