The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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November 17, 2012

Enid’s ‘grand old lady’

(Continued)

ENID, Okla. — Hard times and rebirth

Enid City Manager Eric Benson said the building was closed in 2009, over noncompliance with Americans with Disabilities Act issues and the cost of operation, which was about $200,000 a year. At that time, there was discussion about demolishing the building. After the failure of the Gateway Enid bond issue in 2010, Mayor John Criner, became a supporter of its demolition, making an oft-repeated comment, “I want to know which way the key turns on that bulldozer.”

Convention Hall was saved, though, and its renovation became part of the Enid Renaissance Project, along with construction of Enid Event Center. Convention Hall features a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, a 3,000-square-foot ballroom and flexible space for either trade shows or stage presentations. It also will feature meeting rooms.

Criner said this week he is pleased no one told him how to turn on the bulldozer key.

“I’m really pleased. It’s a very upgraded facility and it looks better inside, than outside,” Criner said.

He recalled watching his son play an EJRT basketball game in Convention Hall, and making the winning goal in the last second of play.

“My wife was there and her father was there, and he was telling everyone, ‘That’s my grandson,’” Criner said.

Criner is confident about the project and the things it will do for the community.

“Enid has made so much progress. People ask me every week if the Renaissance is a good deal and will it work. I tell them, ‘Yes it is, it will bring business to downtown,’” Criner said.

Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen, a member of Friends of Convention Hall, said he has been in the building frequently since construction started. He was in it Tuesday night for the city of Enid Christmas party.

“I think it will really turn out well. It’s not finished, they still have a lot of work to do, but I think everyone will love it,” Janzen said.

Janzen recalled attending an event at Convention Hall many years ago, when he saw the “Chicago Knockers,” a professional women’s mud-wrestling team. The group traveled through Enid and wrestled several local men.

He believes the hall will be used more than Enid Event Center because it is more versatile, featuring a number of meeting rooms.

“Basically, I’m pretty happy,” he said.

Janzen, who has been in AMBUCS for many years, remembers having donkey basketball games in Convention Hall. As a youth, he was a member of a car club that held a number of car shows in Convention Hall.

“Everyone who went to school here at that time remembers Christmas Vespers. All of the school children got together there and sang Christmas songs,” Janzen said.

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