Veterans Memorial Coliseum renovation nears completion
After three years of planning, fundraising and construction, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum renovation is almost finished.
Parks and Recreation Director Geoff Hubbard expects the project to be completed by the end of December and hopes to show the newly renovated building off to the public in some capacity in January.
“I don’t know what opening up is going to look like. Depending on what COVID is going on,” Hubbard said. “We have our own programs we want to offer in here like indoor soccer for youth and adults, taekwondo and Zumba would move over here. We’re getting closer for people that want to use it too”
The subfloor of the basketball court is almost completely installed and ready to be covered with the court. The court is lit with LED fixtures which Hubbard remarked will help save on operating costs.
“We were talking the overall budget for the Coliseum — whatever our utility costs used to be, we should cut that in at least half just from the efficiencies of the appliances and heating and cooling,” he said.
Along with two full-sized basketball courts, the space can also be used for up to three volleyball courts.
The building will have men’s and women’s restrooms on the main floor and second level along with family restrooms on the main floor.
The second floor is largely relegated to storage space and is relatively unusable according to Hubbard. He expects it to be home to group fitness classes and activities as well as another option for meeting space.
There are also meeting rooms on the main level, meaning the available space to host meetings has tripled compared to the previous layout.
“It looks so clean. Everything looks so clean,” said Steve Storjohann, co-chair for coliseum fundraising commission, as he toured the building with Hubbard on Wednesday.
Storjohann had been using the Coliseum for recreation since he was a child, even playing high school basketball there in 1964. He said the Coliseum was largely the same as his high school days when his 50th class anniversary was held.
The Veterans Memorial Coliseum was built in 1928 and completed in 1929. Aside from updates in the 1970s and 1990s it had been untouched for the better part of 20 years, according to Hubbard.
“Now it’s completely changed. Such an improvement,” he said. “Everything just falls into place. It fits. It compliments each other.”
The fundraising commission raised more than $1.35 million to make the renovation possible. It received donations of up to $200,000 as well as a $100,000 grant from the Iowa Native Fund and $400,000 from the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation.
Garling Construction of Cedar Rapids won the bid to complete the project for about $3.5 million in October 2019.
The Coliseum renovation project was being planned before the building’s roof was destroyed during the tornado in 2018. Though the damage was devastating, Storjohann said it was a blessing in disguise because the insurance claim helped with the renovation. Hubbard agrees.
“We fundraised $1.35 million which was nice. I don’t know if we could have fundraised $2.5 million. With that insurance money we got $2 million in insurance. That helped close the gap, definitely.”
Hubbard and Storjohann are anxious to see the building open to the public, and for it to be safe to host public events again.
“What I think the Coliseum will bring will hopefully be some revitalization to the downtown businesses because there will be people in here every weekend and week nights that are going to want to do something afterwards,” Hubbard said. “I also think it’s a needed space for meetings, for youth activities, for concert venues, things like that that we just haven’t had before. Having those things back in town will really bring back some memories for some people. We could all use some good-time thinking right now.”
“We have the ability now to make all the improvements that needed to be made years ago but the funds weren’t there – and it just kind of for years got kicked to the curb,” Storjohann added. “It ain’t that way now. This is really nice. I’m really proud of it.”
Contact Joe Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org