War Memorial nearly complete

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

“They’re (Merit Construction Inc.) through with the major part of the renovations that was part of the clean energy grant that we obtained from the state, so the major part of the renovations are finished,” Steve Harrelson, Lenoir City Parks & Recreation Department director, said. “The only thing is we’re going to go ahead and do some renovations to the restrooms and then we’re going to do a total kitchen renovation also.”

Local contractor Tooter Robinette should have restroom renovations completed within two or three weeks, Harrelson said. Renovations cost $5,500. Kitchen work from Merit Construction is free of charge.

Blake Newman, project superintendent for Merit Construction, said kitchen work will include new floor, cabinets, appliances and paint. Cabinets are expected to be shipped by Feb. 20, which will help complete work by the end of the month, Newman said.

Other improvements throughout the building include a sprinkler system, fire alarm system, new heating, ventilation and air conditioning, updated electrical, refinished gymnasium floor and energy-efficient light fixtures and windows.
“We got a clean energy grant through the state so we needed to address some utility issues as far as insulation and the new windows and do things that help us with our energy cost here, but also looking at other things to renovate as far as electrical and fire alarm system and things of that nature,” Harrelson said.
City officials plan to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony after phase two of the downtown streetscapes project is complete, which Harrelson said will include reworking the sidewalk in front of the building.
“It was a much needed and worthy project and I’m excited that as soon as we have the sidewalks redone we’re going to have a rededication down there, and the governor’s been there twice,” Mayor Tony Aikens said. “First time he brought the check and, of course, he had his meeting there when he was touring the state talking about the gasoline tax, but we hope to certainly trying to get him to come back for the rededication. If not, maybe the Lt. Gov. (Randy) McNally can come make it.”
Should city officials wish to use the upstairs portion of the building, Aikens said an elevator costing $100,000 would need to be installed. The elevator was initially considered, but was later scrapped to stay within budget.
“The War Memorial Building’s always been like a staple of Lenoir City,” Harrelson said. “It’s a building that’s familiar with everyone on Lenoir City that has lived here for many years. Our goal is to renovate the building, use it to bring more people downtown for different events and I think it’s important part of downtown revitalization. ... I think a lot of people (are) going to be pleasantly surprised when they walk in here and see the (renovations).”
The building has been open for public use since Feb. 1 once most of the work was completed, Harrelson said, noting groups like American Legion Post 70, Little T Squares and even youth basketball teams are utilizing the facility.
Aikens would like to see more use, and has even informed Allison Sousa, director of The Venue at Lenoir City, to refer people eyeing smaller events to Harrelson to rent the facility.
“It doesn’t cost as much to rent it,” Aikens said. “But it’s very — certainly I don’t see anything wrong with the War Memorial Building at all and hope the people would continue to use it like they’ve done ever since it was built and it’s just a whole lot nicer down there than what it was, and more energy efficient.”
Harrelson said he hopes to bring some concerts, whether well-known musical groups or even a battle of the bands to showcase local talent. Plays and indoor Movies in the Park showings are also being considered.
Aikens said “some” stage lighting would likely need to be installed.
“I think it’s going to be a good fit because we can sit 550-600 people in here for a play and that’s, other than the Venue, by far the largest facility we can have for play production,” Harrelson said.