TOWN OF DELAVAN — A new player is announcing its presence in the convention and event market, with a $2 million facility coming to the shores of Delavan Lake.
The Waters Edge Convention Center, a joint venture of the town of Delavan and a nonprofit group, is scheduled to open next spring as a venue for weddings, meetings and other events.
Officials plan to start booking events next July.
Town Chairman Larry Malsch compared it with Lake Geneva’s Riviera tourism center, saying he envisions the new facility drawing all kinds of large events to Delavan.
“The design of it — it looks beautiful,” Malsch said.
Town officials and others gathered Oct. 26 for a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site alongside Delavan Lake in the town-owned Delavan Community Park.
Together with the nonprofit group Delavan Friends of the Park, the town plans to remodel an existing community center located in the park and transform it into the Waters Edge Convention Center.
Officials have spent the past two years making plans for the project.
Becky Dreyer, event coordinator for the Delavan Friends of the Park, said the 10,000-square-foot facility will be marketed for weddings, proms, retirement parties and more.
“This property will be so beautiful for any sort of social event,” Dreyer said. “With the lake and all the outdoor space, it really does offer the best of Delavan.”
Located at the intersection of state Highway 50 and South Shore Drive, the site overlooking Delavan Lake is about 10 minutes west of Lake Geneva.
Whether the new convention center will compete with the Riviera or other venues in Lake Geneva remains to be seen.
Stephanie Klett, president of the VISIT Lake Geneva tourism group, said some local venues host so many events that they sometimes have to turn business away. Klett said she welcomes the new Delavan facility into the mix.
“Too many great venues is a wonderful problem to have,” she said. “People want options, and I think the Waters Edge gives people another locale to love.”
The town of Delavan borrowed $1.7 million for the project, although construction bids came in higher at $2.4 million.
Led by Scherrer Construction Co. of Burlington, work has started on interior demolition on the old community center. Officials hope the project is completed by next April or May.
Crews will maintain the steel structure of the nearly 50-year-old community center, and then add new walls, new insulation, new electrical, light fixtures and air-conditioning, and new restrooms.
Architect Peter Pichotta of Angus-Young Architects in Janesville said the structure was built as storage shed and has recently been used for community events. But the transformation into the new convention center will be dramatic and visually impressive, he said.
Only the basic rectangular shape of the structure will look the same, Pichotta said.
“We’re stripping it down and building it back new,” he said.
Lake Geneva-based Geneva Lake Design has joined the team to provide interior design work.
The finished product, a two-story event center, will be designed for a wide variety of functions, Pichotta said.
“Really, it’s multi-purpose — as many functions as they can accommodate,” he said. “It’s a big open space.”
The Delavan Friends of the Park will work to market and rent Waters Edge for events beginning next July.
Malsch said there have been some disagreements among town leaders related to the project.
No decision has been made yet about how to fund the cost overrun, with construction bids running $700,000 over budget. Malsch said he wants to consider the town leasing the convention center to the nonprofit group as a financing mechanism.
Others involved in the project want to charge customers as much as $8,000 to rent the facility for weddings, which Malsch said seems too high-priced. Lake Geneva officials recently increased the cost of renting the Riviera for weddings to $5,500 on peak-demand days.
The town chairman said he remains enthusiastic about the project, and he is optimistic that the remaining details will get resolved.
“It’ll work out,” he said. “I hope so.”