By Collin Lueck
The city of Merrill christened the brand new Bierman Building on the Merrill Festival Grounds last Wednesday. The building is both the new home of the Merrill Enrichment Center and features a 14,000 square-foot expo hall.
Mayor Bill Bialecki expressed gratitude to the Bierman Foundation for their generous donation to the facility.
“This is a great facility,” Bialecki said. “I certainly know we’re going to enjoy it for a long time.”
Moving out of the City Hall basement and into the new facility has been great for the Enrichment Center, said director Tammie Mrachek. Accessibility and visibility are greatly improved, she added.
“The expo center will bring awareness to people who don’t know what we do,” she said. “We can promote what we offer at the center.”
Mrachek said the new location is already attracting new faces to the Enrichment Center.
“People are coming to see what we are,” she added.
For those who regularly participated in programming at the old location, the new facility is a totally new experience.
“The initial reaction was ‘wow!’ Mrachek said.
Enrichment Center visitors can now park right next to the building and walk right in – something that proved to be a challenge for the City Hall location. Also, the quilting activities and arts and crafts have separate rooms to work.
The craft shop – which to very few people’s knowledge, was open for years in the City Hall basement – has generated new enthusiasm. The shop will open soon in the Enrichment Center and crafters are clamouring to sell their creations.
“It will be more like boutique shopping,” Mrachek said.
The craft shop will be open to the public, offering handmade items from pottery and jewelry to soaps and candles.
While it is anticipated that the expo center will be rented out for events mostly on weekends, the Enrichment Center has use of that space during the week. Anyone, of any age, is welcome to use the expo center space for walking.
With the new location, the Enrichment Center is looking to further its goal of offering more intergenerational programming – bringing youth and elders together for activities.
“If we can get them to understand one another, maybe we can help strengthen the community as a whole,” Mrachek said.
The facility features a commercial kitchen which will be operational soon. The kitchen will be used by the Enrichment Center for Community Meals on Thursdays and will be available to expo center renters on weekends.
The expo center is already starting to get some bookings.
“We have weddings already booked for 2018 and 2019,” said City Administrator Dave Johnson.
The facility features ample parking and seating for up to 550 people. For events that don’t require seating, the capacity is 900.
Johnson noted that the Bierman Building is meant to complement the city’s other large venue, the Smith Center. While the Smith Center is serving its primary purpose as an ice arena six months out of the year, the expo hall in the Bierman Building will be available year-round.