Retired Duluth Entertainment Convention Center executive director Dan Russell graciously agreed to the following Q & A, collected Friday night at the Bulldogs’ men’s hockey game at Amsoil Arena:
Howie: What have you been up to these days, Dan?
Dan: “Enjoying the Bulldogs’ hockey atmosphere. I don’t get to many games, so it’s kind of fun to stand in the long lines here at the Amsoil.”
Howie: How’s retirement?
Dan: “You know, it’s awesome. It’s great. I get to spend time with the kids and the grandkids. I have time to do projects. Everything’s good in my life, and we’re getting ready to make some maple syrup. I’m spending lots of time at the Damiano Center, which is my passion. I invite everyone to head down there, to go for it, because it’s a great cause. There’s no reason why when it’s this cold that people don’t have a warm place to be and get a warm meal.”
Howie: Reflect on your DECC career:
Dan: “It was time to move on from the DECC. Tonight, I was just down waiting in line to get a sandwich, and I saw the little kids getting their ice cream and whatnot, making memories. The Amsoil looks great, looks just like the day it opened and three national championships since we opened, which makes me feel really good. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a couple of them and always will be a Bulldog fan.”
Howie: The DECC’s role in our local tourism industry?
Dan: “Huge. Tourism has changed Duluth, and for the better. We wouldn’t have the restaurants, the entertainment opportunities, the Lakewalk without it. It’s fun to see our city doing so well, and I do think we are with Cirrus and everything else going on. When I came here in ’79 Jeno put up the billboard saying, ‘Last people out turn out the lights’ and my friends asked, ‘Why would you possibly move Duluth?’ And now everybody I talk to would love to live here. We’ve changed our image, our reputation, and we’re a place people want to live. People who live here and drive into the Twin Cities, in that traffic, we’re just very happy to get home.”
Howie: Is the Amsoil expansion here at the DECC a regional success story?
Dan: “That’s not my judgment. All I know is if people remember back, Governor (Tim) Pawlenty said, ‘You need a referendum. Tell me what your community wants.’ The Twins didn’t do it, the Vikings didn’t do it. We were the only city that stood up and 61-percent of our citizens said, ‘Hey, we want this. We know how important it is for downtown Duluth.’ And I think it’s been proven many times over.”
Howie: Grade the efforts of your successor, Chelly Townsend.
Dan: “I couldn’t be more proud of Chelly, who continues to do an incredible job. It isn’t about building buildings, because we’ve kind of ran out of space here unless we choose to do something at Bayfront. It really comes down to the culture at the DECC, to the caring people who work here and sincerely want the best for our community. The DECC is not asking for more money, so I am so proud of Chelly for that.”
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