The Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the new Furnell Pavilion, located at 2nd and Ohio in downtown Sedalia.

About 100 people showed up for the event at noon, and after a few brief speeches, gathered behind a long, red ribbon while it was sliced in two by David Furnell and Erica Eisenmenger of Furnell Companies. Several City and County officials attended the event as well.

“This didn't just happen over the course of the last few months. This was something that we talked about, we brought plans, we discussed over many, many months, and we're glad that it's come to be,” Furnell told the crowd. “This is an example of where city and private developers are able to get together and do something. With a public and private partnership, you see what can be created. They helped create this, because they want to see exactly what we're hoping for. More events, more people. Everything happening in this historic district in downtown Sedalia.”

“It's good for our town and good for downtown Sedalia ... we couldn't have done it without you,” Furnell said, mentioning Mayor Andrew Dawson, former Mayor John Kehde, Community Development Director John Simmons and Downtown Specialist Joleigh Cornine in particular.

“The best part is, we are glad to be in downtown Sedalia, glad to be lifelong Sedalia people, and we're glad to have a city government that is willing to help us private developers bring people into downtown,” Furnell concluded.

The facility saw its first major event on April 24 with the Ukrainian Festival, which brought hundreds to the downtown area on a Sunday.

Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony was a festive one as well, with cloudy skies (but no rain) and temps in the mid-70s. A thunderstorm that was moving towards Pettis County earlier in the day skirted to the south of Sedalia on its way to St. Louis.

Sedalia Mayor Andrew Dawson addressed the crowd from the stage when asked to do so by Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce Debra Andresen. Later he told KSIS that he thinks the new pavilion “is a great example of what a public-private partnership can accomplish. Without the two entities coming together, we wouldn't have been able to as much as did here,” Dawson said.

“We'll be utilizing this for Scott Joplin and any other events we have throughout the year,” the Mayor said.

An informal reception followed the ceremony with freshly-baked cookies from Betty and cans of Coke available.

Erica Eisenmeger, vice president of Furnell Investments, said she has “been a part of the project since the brainstorming phase a couple of years ago when we started throwing this idea around and started to get plans drawn and enter into this agreement with the City. So I've been a part of this since its inception.”

She noted that “it's been a challenging couple of years all around for everybody (during COVID). There were times when we knew we were lucky to make the progress we were able to make, just with all the supply and labor challenges. So we are very excited to see it here today,” Eisenmenger commented.

The former empty lot use to contain historical buildings that burned several years ago and had to be demolished. It was also part of a City parking lot on the west side of the property. And for many Scott Joplin Festival regulars, it was Gazebo Park on the south side. So for many, it is a definite upgrade and improvement to the downtown area, and a great use of space.

“I hope people see that. It was just a space that kind of needed a footprint. And we're hoping that this draws some attraction to specifically this portion of downtown. So hopefully, people see that,” Eisenmenger told KSIS.

She went on to explain the public-private partnership, which was integral to the construction of the facility.

“So we approached the City Council and had a couple of meetings with them and also an actual Council session where we discussed details and basically, the City paid for portions, we paid for portions, and in the end, the City is given 22 days of programming. And that I know will also be shared with the Parks Department. So we're hoping for some community events as well, from this. And then of course, we, on our end, are looking to rent it for various events,” she said.

The building was designed by Dan Lowe, according to Eisenmenger.

The partnership between the City of Sedalia and developer Furnell Companies created an outdoor venue space in downtown Sedalia that was announced 13 months ago.

It is hoped that 22 public events per year, organized through Sedalia Parks & Rec, will occur at the site in the 200 block of South Ohio. That includes major events such as the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation Festival, which was canceled the last two years due to COVID. This year's Joplin Fest is scheduled for June 2- 4.

It is hoped that the “Downtown Pavilion Project” will lure more people to the downtown area as a destination.

The shelter and restrooms will remain open to the public at all times when a specific event is not taking place at the pavilion, according to a press release from the City of Sedalia.

“By doing it as a public-private partnership, we were able to stretch the public tax dollars much further, while also leveraging private investment to provide more benefit to the public in general,” the release said. “Simply put, together we are able to accomplish more.”

In its press release, Furnell Companies Vice President Erica Eisenmenger noted that the venue space would occupy approximately 3100 square feet, and would feature an open-air event stage, restrooms, preparation and dressing room areas, as well as access to off-street parking.