The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 4, 2012

Convention Hall to open again Nov. 18 at open house

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Convention Hall officially will be opened during a special open house Nov. 18.

The historic building at 301 S. Independence will reopen as Enid’s newest conference center, and will feature a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, a 3,000-square-foot ballroom and flexible space for either trade shows or stage presentations.

It was built in 1919 and dedicated to World War I veterans. The grand opening will be preceded by a Veterans Day parade downtown beginning at 1:30 p.m., which will end at Convention Hall. At 2 p.m. the hall will open to the public.

The annual Veterans Day parade, usually held near Nov. 11, was postponed because veterans groups wanted to be part of the Convention Hall opening.

Mayor Bill Shewey said Convention Hall shows the city’s retention of a great historic asset.

“This is a great day when Enid retained and renovated a historic facility, that is an asset to the community and a wonderful improvement to the downtown area,” Shewey said.

Keller Taylor, general manager of the facility, said each room in Convention Hall will be decorated in a different theme to showcase the flexibility of the building.

“The construction has moved smoothly with the Carter and W.L. McNatt teams, and we are thrilled to be managing this facility for the people of Enid,” Taylor said.

Renovations of Convention Hall were part of the $24.5 million Enid Renaissance Project. The other major part is the new Enid Event Center, which will open in the spring and will host sporting events, trade shows and conventions.

Convention Hall and Enid Event Center will be managed by Global Spectrum, a worldwide facility management company.

W.L. McNatt and Co. was awarded a $7 million contract for the renovation project.

Convention Hall was built for $500,000 in 1919, including $250,000 of construction bonds. The building served as a meeting place for the Enid Chamber of Commerce and housed city offices at one time. It also was the stage for a number of traveling plays and stage shows, including John Philip Sousa, Bob Wills and Fred Waring. President George H.W. Bush spoke at Convention Hall while campaigning for president in 1992. The building also was featured in the 1973 movie “Dillinger,” partially filmed in Enid and starring Warren Oates.

The original hall was four stories tall and had two balconies. The basketball court later was named for Enid native Mark Price, who played for Georgia Tech and in the NBA.

In May 2008, use of the facility had declined, and the facility was closed because it did not meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and was slated for demolition. A group called Friends of Convention Hall presented the city commission with a petition containing 4,000 names of people who opposed razing the facility, and the commission sought alternatives to the plan leading to its inclusion in the Enid Renaissance Project.