The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 20, 2011

Groundbreaking: City of Enid’s Renaissance Project under way

ENID — It was a rainy groundbreaking ceremony for the Enid Renaissance Project on Friday morning, but city officials and supporters were excited to see the project finally get under way.

The groundbreaking still took place even though a recent lawsuit filed by local businessman Bob Berry could delay the project. Attorneys for the city and Berry are working to see if there can be a compromise before an injunction hearing continues next week.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered beneath a white tent in front of Convention Hall Friday morning during the ceremony.

Adjacent to the tent was a small pile of dirt that symbolized the work that was to occur on the project — building a new downtown events center and renovating Convention Hall.

“I think we’ve all been looking forward to this for quite some time,” City Manager Eric Benson said. “I’m as excited as I could be.”

Benson brought attendees back three years, when he said city officials asked the community what could be done to en-hance the look of the city.

Through planning, Benson said, the city was able to come up with a solution.

“While every other community in the nation is struggling with how to find money and balance their budget, we in Enid have been doing it for the last five years,” he said.

Mayor Bill Shewey, who spoke after Benson, said Enid residents know what’s at stake and welcomed anyone from out of town to find out more about how Enid was improving the downtown area.

“There will be a lot of hard work,” Shewey said. “A lot of thought has already gone into it, and a lot of sweat will go into it for the next two to three years.”

After Shewey spoke, Monroe Elementary School students presented city commissioners and former commissioners with plaques that had a handprint of a student on it. They were in commemoration of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Attendees then were led inside, where students from Garfield Elementary School sang the state song and a large banner with an artist’s rendering of the project dropped from the middle of Mark Price Arena.

Benson said that, despite the lawsuit in court, Enid will build the two facilities.

“We’re just going to continue the process,” Benson said.

This week, Special District Judge Paul Woodward heard Berry’s lawsuit against the city fast-tracking the project. After the judge found for Berry on one of the elements of his petition, the hearing was continued to next week.

“No matter what obstacles are being thrown at us, we will succeed,” Benson said.

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