Theater Development Grants

Xcel Chips in $250,000 for Confluence Project

Tom Giffey |

In February, planners of the Confluence Project unveiled this new rendering of the proposed arts center, created by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects. Click for a closer look!

Xcel Energy is helping charge up the Confluence Project with a $250,000 grant toward the downtown performing arts center. Ben Fowke, CEO of the Minneapolis-based utility firm, made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday. “You can really feel the energy and revitalization coming downtown,” said Fowke, who was also in Eau Claire for the firm’s annual shareholder meeting, which will be held Wednesday.

The quarter-million-dollar donation pushes the private fundraising total for the shared community-university arts center past $13 million, with less than $2 million to go to reach the $15 million goal. Overall, the project’s price tag will be $45 million, which will come from a variety of public and private sources.

Dan Clumpner, a principal with Commonweal Development, which is consulting on the development, said the project is still moving toward a groundbreaking in early fall. (The Confluence Center expected to open in 2018.) “The $15 million is very important,” he said of the fundraising goal. “There are some things we’d like to add that would go a little above that,” he added, noting there will be some flexibility to the bidding process to adjust the project’s cost to its needs.

left to right are: Mark Stoering, Meghan Bauer, Tom Barland, Jill Barland, Mark Faanes, and Ben Fowke
Left to right: Mark Stoering, Meghan Bauer, Tom Barland, Jill Barland, Giant Check, Mark Faanes, and Ben Fowke

Xcel is just the latest local business to hand over a giant check (above); other large-scale donors have included RCU, JAMF Software, Charter Bank, Market & Johnson, OakLeaf Medical Network physicians, and many more.

Xcel has a long history in downtown Eau Claire. Its predecessor, Northern States Power Co., was headquartered downtown for most of the 20th century, first in a South Barstow Street building that was razed to make way for Haymarket Landing (the Confluence Project’s residential and commercial component) and later just down the street near the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, which is now home to Phoenix Park.

To learn more about the Confluence Project,