Confluence Funding Headed Back Into State Budget


The Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance today will approve a $15 million non-state agency grant for the Confluence Arts Center in downtown Eau Claire as part of the 2015-17 state budget.


The committee’s voting agenda includes capital bonding in the state budget to construct an approximately $40 million arts center at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers to serve the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, local arts organizations and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


On May 7, the committee voted to remove from the budget $15 million in general purpose revenue cash funding for the project.  Today’s vote restores funding through the state capital building program.


Project funding will be included in the budget sent by the Joint Committee on Finance to the full state legislature for consideration and then to Gov. Scott Walker for approval.


The Confluence Arts Center would replace the inadequate and obsolete State Theatre in downtown Eau Claire and Kjer Theatre on the UW-Eau Claire campus.  It also would enable the community to host musical, theatrical and other entertainment and cultural events that, to date, no venue in the region has been able to accommodate.


Anticipated Confluence Arts Center venues and space use:

  • a 1,200-1,500-seat theater, a 400-seat flexible theater, a 200-seat performance venue
  • visual arts studios and galleries
  • scene, prop and costume shops, dressing rooms and back-of-the-house operations
  • dance studio, music instruction classrooms, rehearsal rooms


Anticipated Arts Center funding:

  • $5 million city of Eau Claire
  • $3.5 million Eau Claire County
  • $13.5 million philanthropy ($9 million currently pledged)
  • $3 million New Market Tax Credits
  • $15 million state of Wisconsin non-state agency grant


The Confluence Project is a unique collaborative effort between the city of Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, philanthropists and private developers to create a new arts center to support university academic programs and the thriving arts community of Eau Claire and northwest Wisconsin.


Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt and Eau Claire Regional Arts Council Executive Director Ben Richgruber provided the following statements about the Joint Committee on Finance vote:


“We are grateful to the committee members for their vote to provide state funding for the Confluence Arts Center. Their vote embraces the innovative and collaborative nature of the project — and recognizes that by partnering together, the city, county, state, philanthropy and private investment can accomplish much more than the old way of going it alone. The city of Eau Claire has a long and rich tradition of collaboration, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with the state of Wisconsin on this transformative economic development project in downtown Eau Claire.”

Kerry Kincaid, Eau Claire City Council President


“The $15-million-dollar investment by the state of Wisconsin in the Confluence Arts Center demonstrates tremendous value for state taxpayers by providing UW-Eau Claire with significant and much needed upgrades to our performing arts facilities at a fraction of what it would cost to build a similar facility on campus.  This is truly a win-win-win for UW-Eau Claire, the greater Eau Claire community and Wisconsin taxpayers. I want to personally thank our local legislators who worked tirelessly in a bi-partisan manner to communicate the many merits of the Confluence Arts Center to their colleagues on the finance committee. It is clear from the results of today’s vote that their advocacy on behalf of our university and community was heard loud and clear in Madison.”

James Schmidt, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor


“Eau Claire is nationally and internationally known for the quality of our performers and artists. The vote by the committee today will enable our community to create a facility that will provide state-of-the-art space for those performers and artists. Creation of the Confluence Arts Center will have impacts that reach far beyond the arts: Studies show the arts are good business and that the cultural resources the Confluence Arts Center will provide will have rippling economic benefits throughout the community and the region, make Eau Claire a more attractive place for new business, and help existing employers attract and retain top talent.”

Ben Richgruber, Eau Claire Regional Arts Council Executive Director


For additional comments on the Joint Committee on Finance vote, please contact:

  • Kerry Kincaid, Eau Claire City Council president, 715-577-2360
  • James Schmidt, UW-Eau Claire chancellor, 715-836-2327
  • Ben Richgruber, Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, 608-445-0044
  • Dan Clumpner, Commonweal Development, 715-832-8707
  • Kim Way, UW-Eau Claire Foundation, 715-577-5955
  • Sue Bornick, Eau Claire Community Foundation, 715-552-3801