Remodeled auditorium offers Marion new options for events, gatherings

The possibilities for the newly remodeled Marion City Auditorium, renamed ?Com?munity Center,? are endless, according to information presented to a total of 75 people during two open house celebrations last week.

The auditorium, which is part of Marion City Hall, was built more than 70 years ago as a public gathering place for concerts and plays, is now available for hosting wedding receptions, trade shows, conventions, reunions, graduation parties and more, said Todd Heitschmidt, Marion Advancement Campaign.

In the first phase of the project, a new sound system was installed, the main floor was leveled and new furniture was added, including 30 round tables, 300 chairs and 20 rectangular tables to accommodate 250 to 300 people, he said.

The idea to have a community facility was first introduced several years ago by a group of citizens wanting to build a free-standing structure, similar to Manhattan?s Wareham Theatre.

The original estimated cost for building was $648,256, a far cry from the $60,000 in donations set aside for the project, Heitschmidt said.

?After a number of years, the group decided the project wasn?t feasible and the auditorium sat empty,? he said.

Mike Powers, MAC member, said the group turned its attention to what was already in place.

?Using the established city auditorium donations, the first phase cost $55,000,? he said.

Some of the advantages of renovating the old auditorium were also highlighted.

?We restored this grand facility to modern use,? Powers said. ?We saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and maintained a central location.?

Phases 2 and 3 will include updating the basement facilities, including the kitchen, and renovating the bathrooms and possibly enlarging that space, Heitschmidt said.

MAC also hopes to re-do the seats and modify the balcony in Phase 3 as well.

Heitschmidt and other MAC members thanked two people instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

Gene Winkler, MAC member, volunteered more than 350 hours of his time to work on the project and was acknowledged during both open house events.

Courtney Geis, a 2004 graduate of Marion High School, provided architectural expertise in making the modifications.

A student at Kansas State University in 2009, Geis worked on the auditorium for her senior project.

?We couldn?t have done this without their help,? Heitschmidt said.

The main part of the facility is operational and anyone interested in renting it can call MAC.

The rental fee will depend on how much space is needed.

For example, Heitschmidt said that if someone is having a wedding reception and needs both the upstairs and downstairs, the cost would be $450.

Considering that comparable facilities in other towns cost $1,000 to $2,000, the price seems fair, he said.

The cost for one room would be $300 and MAC members have not made a decision on the price for renting the facility at an hourly rate.

As MAC continues to preserve the auditorium, making it a showcase for everyone in Marion County, Heitschmidt said, the hope is others will contribute to the overall goal of completing phases two and three.

MAC board of directors include Heitschmidt, Powers, Winkler, Doug Kjellin, Keith Collett, Jeff Cady and Mickey Lundy

Anyone who would like to contribute to the auditorium can do so by sending checks to: Marion Advancement Campaign Inc., 231 E. Main St., P.O. Box 256, Marion, KS 66861 or call 620-382-5600.

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