The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

September 8, 2010

Convention Hall support group looks to find renovation alternative

ENID — A group supporting continued use of Convention Hall is hoping to help find a consensus plan to renovate the historic Enid building.

Tom Sailors, spokesman for the group and a former Enid city manager, said the organization is just starting. A group of about 50 people met last week for lunch to discuss the building and to look at a plan proposed by Enid architect Ken Corbin.

Corbin proposed a multi-use complex he said would cost about $15 million to build. A city bond issue election recently resulted in the defeat of a $20 million plan that would have resulted in about $5.5 million worth of improvements on the building to turn it into a multi-use complex for Enid High School sports practices and some indoor events.

Convention Hall has been closed for two years because it does not meet Americans With Disabilities Act requirements. Enid High’s basketball teams played in Mark Price Arena inside Convention Hall until the building was closed. The teams have been playing in the Mabee Center at Northern Oklahoma College Enid.

“We unanimously agreed there is not (currently) a constituency for Convention Hall, although many have an affinity for it. We agreed an organization would be appropriate,” Sailors said.

The group established an e-mail address: FriendsofCon Sailors said they also have reserved a domain name, if needed. The purpose of the organization is to assure the preservation of the building they believe still could be of use to the city or the school system.

“We’re interested in its future as a state-of-the-art facility ... multi-purpose facility, and we think it is feasible as Ken Corbin’s design shows,” Sailors said. “By the failure of the recent election to resolve the need, we encourage Convention Hall be a focal point” of any future proposal.

Members of the group were concerned about statements made following the defeat of the bond issue relating to demolition of the building. Sailors said he has been assured by Ward 2 Commissioner Don Rose demolition is not on tonight’s commission agenda. Sailors said the group is asking for a “seat at the table” when Convention Hall’s future is discussed.

“We want to be available however we can,” Sailors said.

Ward 4 Commissioner Drew Ritchie said Wednesday commissioners are working on another plan, but he would welcome input from people with experience putting such buildings back into use.

“We won’t demolish a building with a viable use and we are searching for that viable use,” Ritchie said. “I realize Convention Hall is an emotional issue for some people, and when emotion is involved sometimes the passion is very, very high. I want to remove the emotion and see what we can do with the building.”

Sailors said it is irrelevant to him the election failed, but there are needs in Enid Convention Hall can fill. He said ADA requirements can be addressed and the building reopened.

“The city is concerned they don’t have any usage, but you can’t have usage if you’re not open for business,” he said.


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