john shuster

Olympic gold metal champion John Shuster releases his rock while competing against former Minnesota Vikings great Jered Allen in Eveleth November 30, 2018.

EVELETH — A $105,000 convention center grant obtained by the Range Recreation and Civic Center will provide “a much needed boost’’ to the RRCC and Curl Mesabi, according to Phill Drobnick of Curl Mesabi.

They have both faced many challenges in the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which have included canceling last year’s curling season in March and later calling the sport off for 2020-21.

The resulting revenue and losses from dues have totaled more than $165,000.

“With no income in the last year, it’s certainly been tough,’’ Drobnick said. “It’s certainly been a challenging 12 months’’ because the bills continue to come, the building needs to be heated and labor costs are still incurred.

The grant contract has been signed and the funding will be on the Range in less than a month. The funds will be used to pay bills, keep up the building and make sure the employees are paid.

The RRCC funds were part of $13 million in relief grants to convention centers and movie theaters statewide from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Fifteen convention centers and 73 movie theaters in 118 locations received awards.

“This $105,000 is a great relief’’ and a “shot in the arm,’’ said Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe, who is the chair of the RRCC Board.

“We’ve allocated it to Phill and his staff so we can bring curling back to Northeastern Minnesota this next curling season.’’ Cuffe added maintenance has to be done this summer so the building can be brought up to speed for operations in the late fall of 2021. “it’s a great sport. It’s a great venue.’’

Not being able to have curling at the facility has been a tough blow, but so has not being able to host weddings, conventions and other events that usually fill the RRCC.

“Phill and the RRCC board have done yeoman's work to keep expenses down,’’ Cuffe added. “This pandemic has really put a burden on the operation. There’s a lot of expenses to pay.’’

The RRCC is funded by the Quad Cities of Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert and Mountain Iron and they all banded together to find a way to help the facility. Drobnick and Mountain Iron City Administrator Craig Wainio (both avid curlers) “took the bull by the horns and applied for this grant, Cuffe said.

Drobnick further acknowledged Wainio, who “helped guide us to get the grant filled out.’’

The RRCC was also supported by Sen. Dave Tomassoni, IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips, Gov. Tim Walz and DEED Commissioner Steve Grove.

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When exactly the facility will be able to reopen is unknown at this point.

“We are uncertain as to when we will be able to reopen and safely host events,’’ Drobnick said.

However, RRCC and Curl Mesabi are preparing the facility to be COVID safe for when it is possible to be open again. That will come down to getting the OK from the state, said Drobnick, who is very appreciative of the partnership with RRCC Board has with the four Quad Cities.

Drobnick is positive at this point as COVID-19 numbers continue to go down across the state.

“Hopefully we can get more and more vaccinations so we can reopen everything in a safe way.’’

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