A&P moving forward with Civic Center remodel
Officials putting plans together
With the approval of City Council and the recommendation of the West Memphis Advertising and Promotion Commission the office of tourism morphed into the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for the new year.
Tourism Director Jim Jackson was appointed the top spot with the CVB and took on the additional responsibilities of overseeing both the Eugene Woods Civic Center and the Civic Auditorium. With the flat floor center convention and meeting space already under going step-by-step remodeling, Jackson asked the A& P to consider a comprehensive plan to update the 1,000 seat auditorium and kick start a renewed commitment to the venue and booked a Grammy award winning R& B artist.
Architect Pat Magruder was invited to the January A& P commission meeting and conducted a walk around tour presenting remodeling needs for the board to consider. Exit surveys from those recently attending events at the auditorium indicated the dressing rooms and restrooms were inadequate.
Magruder pointed to some substandard access issues that have needed remedy since the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.
Outside the building commissioners saw backdoor only handicap access, and drainage problems. Restrooms lacked an adequate number of handicap stalls.
The lobby, galleries and restrooms needed new finishes and the terrazzo floored entrance needed a new shine. A ticket office with an outdoor window was discussed. Stains on ceiling tiles indicated needed roof work; a recent wind storm created even more leaks.
Dressing rooms had been a chief complaint listed on user surveys. Each changing room has one open shower stall, 50 year old carpet, paneling furniture and fixtures creating a dingy Spartan and outdated atmosphere.
Fixes were listed line by line for piecemeal consideration by commissioners with a total price tag of $655,000. Chairman Frank Waggener had seen remodeling ideas come and go before with no action taken.
“We’ve done this before,” said Waggener. “We’ve had these numbers last time.
We haven’t done anything.
If we are going to do something, let’s do it.”
Commissioner Troy Keeping pointed out frustration and compared the project to the long awaited A& P funded welcome to West Memphis signs.
“The city has a very nice asset,” said Keeping. “The seating capacity can regionally attract everything from movie nights, and artists, but you are not going to attract anything with the issues the building currently has. My initial reaction is if you are going to do it, do it A&P
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right. The city has an opportunity to compete.”
“This says who we are,” said Councilor Ramona Taylor. “If we are proud of who we are, then take of what we’ve got. We have not been taking care of the auditorium or marketing what we have.”
Commissioners charged Jackson with developing a rehabilitation plan.
“When we start talking big money, you’ll have a plan in front of you to approve,” promised Jackson.
“We like this direction, now let’s go to the next step which is procuring an architect,” said Keeping.
By John Rech