Open house Dec. 16 for Marion?s ?new? auditorium

The newly remodeled Marion City auditorium open house at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 is being billed as ?one of the biggest events of this holiday season,? and those responsible for its revitalization want everyone to join in the celebration.

Todd Heitschmidt, overseeing the project through the Marion Advancement Campaign, said he is excited about how far the group has come.

?About six or seven years ago, MAC was formed,? he said.

The idea for starting this group was to build a separate community center and movie theater, he said.

The organization raised $60,000 toward that goal, but when members learned their project would cost $600,000, the group stalled out.

Heitschmidt, who moved to Marion about four years ago, was asked by the community in 2008 to assist in reviving the MAC group because of his experience and expertise in getting two foundations started in Wilson and Leoti.

Accepting the challenge, Heitschmidt and other MAC members, along with Rep. Bob Brookens, began looking at a plan, starting with a trip to Manhattan and the remodeled Wareham Theatre.

The group decided to model its auditorium using the Wareham Theatre as a guide.

The first phase of the project was to find someone to help with an architectural concept.

The timing for this part of the project couldn?t have been better because Courtney Geis, a senior at Kansas State University and Marion High School graduate, was looking for a project.

Heitschmidt said Geis agreed to use the auditorium as her project and pass along the concepts to MAC.

?We turned the project over to her and we were able to use her valuable advice and direction,? he said.

Her architectural drawings included removing the seats and leveling the auditorium floor, making the Marion Chamber of Commerce office a pass through area and other structural changes.


Due to the costs involved, MAC tried securing a $250,000 community service grant last summer, but St. Luke Hospital was also applying for the funds and won out.

MAC continued to forge ahead and with a majority of the work contributed by Gene Winkler, an active advocate for his city, the first part of the project was completed.

?The color scheme (in the auditorium) was not dramatically changed from when the building was built,? Heitschmidt said.

?The main change was gray scaling to accent the architectural features,? he said.

Other improvements to the auditorium include painting the woodwork on the balcony, new carpet, new lighting and sanding and repainting the stage.

One of the most difficult aspects of the project was leveling the main floor and removing the seats.

Heitschmidt also wanted to thank the Lumberyard for donating about $1,000 in materials.

?The Lumberyard was already the low bid (for carpeting) and on top of that they donated more toward the project,? he said.

?We can?t say enough about the help we have had.?

The renovations have come in under budget.

The total amount spent so far is $40,000, and half of that, was buying tables, chairs and other furnishings, he said.

Built during the mid 1930s, the auditorium was part of the Work Projects Administration or WPA.

?This building has good bones and a taste of elegance,? he said.

The new ?Community Center? will be a place for residents to have wedding receptions or businesses to consider conventions or a place for various meetings and social events, he said.

Time to celebrate

Heitschmidt and MAC members are encouraging everyone in Marion County to take part in viewing this first phase of the auditorium?s face lift.

The Christmas Open House and fundraising event will also include a Christmas table decorating contest and Christmas tree decorating contest.

The registration deadline for those who want to participate in the contest is 5 p.m. Dec. 10.

County residents wanting to take part or who have questions are asked to call Heitschmidt at 620-382-2129 or email him

Winners will be determined by public voting with their donations, he said.

?This is a public event and an exciting time for all of Marion County,? he said.

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