Dow Event Center

Dow Event Center

The Saginaw Civic Center was built in 1972 by the City of Saginaw. The Civic Center was composed of three main parts: Wendler Arena, Heritage Theater, and Unity Hall.

Since 1972, the Center has served Saginaw County and the surrounding region as a first-class event venue. The Center has offered all County residents hundreds of entertainment, sport, cultural and educational opportunities annually. Acts who have performed at the Center in the past include Elvis Presley, Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Reba McEntire, Smashing Pumpkins, Kid Rock, Diana Ross, Sesame Street Live, Disney on Ice, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Les Miserables, The Nutcracker Ballet, Rent and Riverdance to name a few.

In 2000, the City determined that it could no longer afford to pay the $850,000 annual deficit necessary to operate the Civic Center. If the City could not find additional funding, the City would close the facility on December 31, 2000. City leaders asked the County of Saginaw Board of Commissioners to place a 0.4500 mill question to County voters to subsidize the facility. The County Building Authority with a group of business and community leaders known as the Saginaw Civic Center Task Force examined the facility and the need for the facility within the County and prepared a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners.

The Authority hired Deloitte & Touche of Chicago to conduct a Feasibility Study on the Saginaw Civic Center. Spicer Engineering of Saginaw conducted an Engineering Study of the entire facility and the cost of repairs and maintenance for updating the facility was estimated. Estimates for repairs on the facility came in at $17 million and included repairs and enhancements to lighting, seating, restroom facilities, sound systems, roofing, and loading docks. They were also asked to present the costs associated with building a similar facility somewhere else within the County. It was estimated that it would take $69 million to build such a facility elsewhere. Representatives from the Building Authority and Civic Center Task Force interviewed two private management groups to run the facility. SMG was chosen as the management group to run the newly-dubbed County Event Center.

On June 30, 2001, the City of Saginaw closed the Saginaw Civic Center. The voters of Saginaw County decided on May 8, 2001, to reopen the facility on July 1, 2001, as the Saginaw County Event Center. SMG has managed the facility with the oversight of the Saginaw County Building Authority and an Event Center Advisory Group. The $850,000 subsidy was reduced by almost half in the first three years of operation.

The Garber Management Group purchased an Ontario Hockey League team in early 2002. The team was named the Saginaw Spirit and Wendler Arena became its new home. Over 30 home games are played by the Saginaw Spirit in Wendler Arena every year, adding another dimension to the Event Center.

Dow Chemical Company of Midland was awarded naming rights to the facility in September 2004. The agreement was mutually beneficial; Dow was able to support a worthy community endeavor and the Event Center was given an internationally recognized name to help draw performers and shows. All of these forces should keep The Dow Event Center a vital part of the Saginaw community for years to come.

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