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CEDAR FALLS — The Cedar Valley is gaining an event center to match its increasing size.

After a year of planning, ground was broken on the Cedar Falls Convention and Event Center at the Hilton Garden Inn, 7213 Nordic Drive. The 11,000-square-foot project will bring the total event space at the Hilton to more than 14,000 square feet.

Purple sports coats from the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber Ambassadors lined one of the Hilton’s event rooms as Mayor Jim Brown and others spoke about the hotel’s newest addition.

“Cedar Falls is growing, and we’re involved with the community. We host a lot of very important events and for the last couple of years it’s kind of been pushing our walls out,” said Andrew Woodrick, Hilton Garden Inn general manager. “It’s a great time to expand with it.”

The project will cost about $5 million and is expected to finish for a grand opening in June, Woodrick said.

Mark Aftanski, CEO of Chrisbro Hospitality, has been involved with the project since its inception.

“The Cedar Valley has been very welcoming to us,” Aftanski said. “We look to ingrain ourselves into the fabric of their community. It’s really exciting that as Cedar Falls and the Cedar Valley grows, we’re growing with them.”

Aftanski wants to make the center match what’s going on in the Cedar Valley.

“To make sure that we were providing something that would be a great part of the community for years to come,” Aftanski said.

The center will also feature an exclusive beverage — Black Hills Brew — from Second State Brewing in Cedar Falls.

Nick Newgard, owner of Second State Brewing, was on hand to fill 32-ounce growlers for attendees of the ground breaking.

“This is their private label stuff out here,” Newgard said. “They’ll have it on tap here all the time, available for events and for guests at the hotel.”

Kirsten Jegsen, Chrisbro’s director of sales, worked with Newgard to bring the brew to the center.

“There are so many wonderful things in the Cedar Valley, from the big bike trails to a great beer,” Woodrick said. “We’re really honored to be able to rename it for our use and put it on our tap.”

Woodrick has talked to some groups about using the center once it opens and the Hilton will actively start selling space after Christmas, he said.

“We’re just getting all of the marketing materials right now and we hope to hit the streets in January,” Woodrick said.

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