City kicks off $1.35M Veterans Memorial Coliseum fundraising

T-R PHOTO BY EMILY BARSKE - The roof of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum was torn off by the tornado, but insurance proceeds allowed the city to get it put back up.

The city of Marshalltown announced a $1.35 million Veterans Memorial Coliseum fundraising campaign on Thursday morning.

The announcement comes the day before the 90th anniversary of the building’s dedication in downtown Marshalltown on March 15, 1929. With a total project cost of $3.6 million, the amount announced for fundraising will be private donations to supplement insurance money, grants and other funds.

The coliseum, used by hundreds of residents each year largely for recreation, was severely damaged in the July 2018 tornado with much of its roof landing on nearby city hall. Sprinkler heads erupted in the storm and water poured in for hours until it could be shut off.

“July 19 was a day that changed Marshalltown forever,” City Administrator Jessica Kinser said at the press conference. “You do not have to look very far to see the damage to the industrial areas, residential neighborhoods or here in downtown Marshalltown. Patience is a virtue and we must remind ourselves of that frequently. Rebuilding does not happen in days or months — it is years.”

Hopes to renovate the building were being discussed long before the tornado, however.

T-R PHOTO BY EMILY BARSKE - Members of the media were given a tour of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum after a press conference Thursday morning kicking off a fundraising campaign for its renovation.

“When the tornado occurred, the plans and specifications were not complete,” Kinser wrote in a memo to the council last month. “The city’s insurance company quickly stepped in to complete the emergency work of replacing the roof and removing all proteins of the interior damaged in the tornado and rain following. While the formal plans and specs are not complete, we have received a revised estimate for the desired renovation.”

At a council meeting last month, councilors gave unanimous support to renovate the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The building serves as a community center, hosting events like the Oktemberfest spaghetti supper, and also serves to honor veterans.

Part of the renovations will include Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, making the entire space accessible. Parks and Rec Director Geoff Hubbard said the stadium seating and stage will be removed to make room for two full-size basketball courts. Indoor soccer and pickleball are also planned.

The tornado also severely damaged the Senior Citizen Building, owned by the city and leased to a couple of agencies for seniors. Council voted to accept insurance proceeds to demolish the building, but said they would make sure a space in the renovated coliseum was available to seniors.

A fundraising committee will be co-chaired by Vic Hellberg and Steve Storjohann, both graduates of the Class of 1964 and Vietnam War veterans. Committee members include Kelli Thurston and Deb Mettlin, with City Council members Al Hoop and Mike Gowdy serving as liaisons to the group. Hellberg said he was tickled to reestablish the building as a center in downtown Marshalltown.

“All the functions that have been utilized in this building are enormous,” Storjohann said. “In the renovations we have planned, it’ll be able to be used more than it ever has been in the past.”

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Contact Emily Barske at 641-753-6611 or ebarske@timesrepublican.com

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC - The proposed Veterans Memorial Coliseum would open in 2020. Total project cost is set for $3.6 million.