By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
About 350 people attended a special luncheon Thursday celebrating the reopening of Convention Hall.
Keller Taylor, general manager of Convention Hall and soon-to-be-open Enid Event Center, said those attending filled less than half the capacity of the Grand Ballroom in the renovated building.
Renovations in Convention Hall are part of the Enid Renaissance Project, which also includes building a new Enid Event Center, which is under construction.
Mayor Bill Shewey opened Thursday’s program portion of the event, saying he had a key in his pocket.
“It’s a very important key. It’s the key to John Criner’s bulldozer,” Shewey said.
He was referring to a comment made by former Mayor John Criner after a 2010 bond issue initiative failed. The bond issue plan, termed Gateway Enid, would have raised $20 million to go with $20 million in city money for the same projects as Enid Renaissance Project, as well as several other projects.
After the bond issue failed, Criner, who was upset by the vote, said: “I want to know which way the key turns on that bulldozer (to knock down Convention Hall).”
Soon after, the group Friends of Convention Hall was formed to save the building. After discussions with city leaders, the plan was developed to renovate Convention Hall, creating a 10,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, a 3,000-square-foot smaller ballroom and flexible space for trade shows or stage presentations.
Speakers at Thursday’s event who were involved with the project told the audience what it means to renovate a historic building like Convention Hall, which was built in 1921. City Manager Eric Benson said the transformation of the building is an example of cooperation between city leadership and the community because it was built without raising taxes.
“The state of Oklahoma is buzzing about what is going on in Enid,” Benson said.
Benson thanked Global Spectrum, which manages Convention Hall, Enid Event Center and Cherokee Strip Conference Center, for its guidance along the way, and for helping bring the project to fruition. Five years ago, he said, city commissioners looked for an agency to help them and found Global Spectrum.
“All you see is done by the guidance of Global Spectrum. They started the movement to improve Enid,” Benson said.
Taylor thanked the people attending the event and introduced some of the key Global Spectrum personnel, including two chefs who helped prepare Thursday’s meal.
Project architect David Greusel, of Convergence Design, said architects usually are standing in front of a screen telling people what a building will look like when it is done.
“I’m happy to be here today to tell you, this is what it will look like when it is done,” Greusel said.
Steve Lewis, of AIP, which worked with Convergence Design, said it felt good to have people in the room and see the result. It was a team accomplishment and a very complex project.
Enid native Joe Roberts, now with W.L. McNatt Construction Co., which performed the renovation work, told the audience he had just removed his hard hat. Roberts called the project “phenomenal.”
“One thing stuck out. I volunteered to be part of the building I remembered,” Roberts said.
He described how workers restored the junior ballroom on the second floor and managed to preserve many of the original pieces.
“I loved being a part of it and sharing it with the next 90 years,” Roberts said.
Danny Jardine, of Carter and Associates, who also is working on continued Enid Public Schools construction projects, said he was honored to work on the building. After thanking Bob Meyers, of Carter and Associates, he asked the audience to remember the building.
“Close your eyes and remember what the building looked like 13 months ago,” he said.
After the luncheon, Dale Shaffer said he was impressed with the building. He said it had a classy appearance.
“Its fantastic,” said Robyn Eitzen. “The atmosphere is great, there’s always something to do in Enid.”
Vicki Brown, an Enid businesswoman, said the building had a nice design.
“It will certainly be an asset for this community for a long time,” Jerry Blankenship said.
Convention Hall, which had been used for Enid High School basketball games, had been closed for several years because it did not meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.