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Arts, Entertainment, Recreation Enhance Quality of Life in Rochester, MN

Residents enjoy enviable quality-of-life amenities

By Jessica Walker Boehm on April 11, 2017

Rochester MN
Rochester / Steve Woit

When looking for a place to put down roots, quality-of-life amenities are typically important – if not essential – to most people, and rightfully so. After all, a community’s arts, entertainment and recreation offerings heavily influence its vibe, and having top-notch facilities within easy reach only enhances residents’ experiences.

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That’s why Rochester makes sense for so many people. Not only does the city have excellent employment and educational opportunities, but it’s also filled with can’t-miss destinations that keep residents active and engaged in their vibrant community. What’s not to love?

Expanding Entertainment Scene

Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center has long been a favorite spot for local, regional, national and international events, and its recent $84 million expansion has created even more opportunities for residents to enjoy world-class entertainment.

The facility, home to a 15,810-square-foot auditorium that hosts concerts, family shows and comedy acts throughout the year as well as a 25,000-square-foot arena, has recently nearly doubled its footprint by adding 188,000 square feet. According to Donna Drews, MCC’s executive director, the results of the expansion include a 38,500-square foot ballroom; a large ballroom lobby that offers views overlooking the Zumbro River and downtown Rochester; 14 suites and two executive board rooms; skyway access to visitor services such as 1,600 hotel rooms, more than 75 restaurants and boutique shopping; and a black box performance hall for the Rochester Civic Theatre Co.

Additionally, Drews says MCC’s presentation hall has been fully renovated, and its arena and auditorium have been improved and upgraded. Plus, the facility now has technically advanced sound, lighting, audio-visual and internet systems.

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“For nearly 80 years, MCC has served as Rochester’s primary venue for public entertainment, sports, the arts and conventions,” Drews says. “We have hosted presidents, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and entertainment legends such as Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Liberace and Victor Borge, and we’ve sold out concerts [for artists] such as Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan and Little Big Town. Serving as a vital economic generator for the region, MCC focuses on providing an exceptional experience by delivering world-class service and high-quality, versatile facilities.”

Fresh Arts, Recreation Opportunities

The Art4Trails initiative, developed in 2016 by the Rochester Arts and Culture Collaborative, combines art and recreation by giving residents convenient access to public art as they traverse the community’s more than 85 miles of trails.

Artists age 18 and older who live in southeastern Minnesota are encouraged to submit proposals for outdoor art creations, and the five that are chosen are installed along the trails near downtown Rochester. Winning artists receive $2,500, and their installation is returned to them after a year unless they donate it to the community as a permanent fixture or it’s purchased by a community member. As a result, the installations are ever-changing.

Chad Allen, program supervisor for 125 LIVE, says that although the initiative was only designed to last a year, it was so successful with both artists and the community that it now reoccurs annually.

“The Art4Trails initiative has been so well-received,” Allen says. “There’s a real push for more public art in Rochester, and we’ve made it happen. Our art scene is growing, and much like Rochester, it’s on the cusp of so many amazing things.”

One of Rochester’s newest recreational offerings is its Path to Health total fitness system, which is a 0.4-mile paved walking and jogging path equipped with 20 exercise stations. Officially open since July 2016, the system was created in a collaborative effort among the Hexum family of Rochester, Mayo Clinic and the Statewide Health Improvement Program of Olmsted County Public Health Services with the goal of increasing wellness in the community and the workplaces surrounding the system.

“Lots of businesses use the system for walking meetings when it’s nice outside, and each station along the trail includes signs with directions on how to use the equipment, so it’s a great place for people of all fitness levels to get in a quick workout,” says Denise Daniels, community health prevention specialist for Olmsted County Public Health Services.

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