ST. CLOUD -- This time of the year is typically very busy for the convention business. However, this year all of the big events like the Home Show, the Sportsmen's Show, and the Boat Show are all canceled.

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Tony Goddard is the Director of Community Services and Facilities for St. Cloud. He says they've had a few events -- but not many -- since March of last year.

The only thing happening at the facility right now is the state's COVID-19 testing site.

Which is open five days a week, free testing for any Minnesotan, and so that's a nice service for the community and a little bit of revenue for the convention center.  It actually takes up quite a bit of space because of the distancing requirements.

He says with virtually no events at the facility since March, and none on the schedule in the first quarter of this year, that adds up to about $2 million in lost revenue. The city has applied for some grant money recently made available for convention centers by the state legislature.

We just calculated it for the second and third quarters of 2020, which is what the grant is focused on, and that was about three-quarters of a million dollars decline in revenue during that period.

Grants of up to $500,000 are available, however, Goddard says convention centers are very different from one another so it's difficult to tell how much funding they might get.

Meanwhile, he says they have reduced expenses considerably by unplugging as much equipment as possible and turning down the heat and air in the large building. They've also shifted some of the staff to other city departments until they are needed again at the convention center.

He says even when they are allowed to open back up for larger events it will take quite some time for the vendors who use the facility to ramp their events back up. Goddard says it has been very time consuming for the staff working with cancellations, postponements, and trying to reschedule dates.

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