Martha Ellen Tye announces $400,000 challenge grant for Coliseum

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC - The proposed Veterans Memorial Coliseum would open in 2020.

On Wednesday, 41 days after announcing a major capital improvement campaign to renovate the historic Veterans Memorial Coliseum, organizers were gifted with a significant challenge grant.

“The Martha Ellen Tye Foundation has announced a $400,000 challenge grant for the renovation of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer said. “Once again the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation is the champion for promoting projects to improve our community.”

In accepting the $400,000 challenge grant from the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation, the city needs to raise an additional $400,000 to receive the full amount. The city owns the venerable facility, and began a campaign on March 15, the 90th anniversary of the building’s dedication with the goal of raising $1.35 million of a projected $3.6 million renovation.

Local veterans were thrilled with the announcement.

“Receiving the (challenge) grant is great news,” Commandant of the local American Legion Post Randy Kessler said. “The Veterans Memorial Coliseum has served as a tribute to veterans and a community focal point since 1929.”

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.

Fellow local veteran Kevin Huseboe was equally ecstatic.

“I think today’s announcement is awesome,” he said. “The Veterans Memorial Coliseum has been a State Street fixture for many years and it needs renovation.”

Since the building was originally built to honor Civil War, Spanish American War and World War I veterans, a special ceremony was held fittingly, on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009, to rededicate the building to all veterans and celebrate its 80th anniversary.

The facility has served a number of purposes, including use as training quarters for the Iowa National Guard prior to World War II. Additionally, the local American Legion Post used it for meetings, and the facility once hosted numerous Marshalltown Community College and Marshalltown High School basketball games.

City Parks and Recreation staff oversee operations in conjunction with an all-volunteer Parks and Recreation Board of Directors with three veterans as members.

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.

Part of the renovations will include Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, making the entire space accessible. Director of Parks & Recreation 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 city council has discussed a space in the renovated coliseum be made available for senior citizens.

The city council recently discussed renting sections of the facility to area residents for parties and wedding receptions.

“The Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation is the catalyst we need to jump start this project, and we encourage residents and area businesses community to help support the renovation and match this grant,” Hubbard said. “Once rebuilt we hope the Veterans Memorial Coliseum becomes the heart and soul of the downtown — full of activities and events for the community to participate in and a gathering space for people to enjoy.”

Donations can be made online at www.mtowncoliseum.com or by mail to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum Fund, 24 N. Center St., Marshalltown, Iowa 50158.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com