By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The aging Veterans Building in City Park has seen its share of “community life moments.” The building has hosted generations of birthday parties, baby showers, wedding receptions and family reunions. It has witnessed square dancing lessons, euchre game nights, and pint size proms.
But its days are numbered, with its crumbling block walls, leaks, lack of air conditioning, and lack of ADA accessibility. There is no storage space, so tables and chairs are stacked in the open. There are holes that let varmints inside – including a skunk that visited during a recent rental.
In order to continue offering a place for “community life moments,” the city is preparing for the sale of $3.75 million in bonds that will pay for tearing down three old buildings and constructing one new facility in City Park.
On the demolition list in addition to the Veterans Building, are two much smaller structures – the Girl Scout Building and the Depot Building – all near the entrance to City Park.
On Tuesday evening, the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board got another look at the initial plans for the new building, which will have adequate space for programming, storage, air conditioning, ADA accessibility, and an attractive design that reflects the historic nature of City Park.
Park and Recreation Director Kristin Otley stressed that the park levy passed by Bowling Green voters last year included money to pay off the bonds for this building project.
“We are not asking people for additional money for this project,” she said.
The construction has a “fairly tight timeline” to minimize interruption with park programming, Otley explained. The architecture and engineering firms should be hired by February, with bids being awarded in July. Construction should begin in mid-August next year, so the project will be completed by mid-spring in 2019.
The replacement of three smaller buildings totaling 8,000 square feet, with one totaling 12,000 square feet will allow for improved traffic flow at the park entrance, and for a larger parking area with 100 spots.
The additional parking will be useful not only for those using the new building, but also for those using the pool or ballfield, Otley said. It’s not unusual for all the parking spots in City Park to be used during events.
The new building will also be as energy efficient as the city can afford. “We’re parks and rec. We value our environment,” Otley said.
Even in its poor condition, the Veterans Building is in demand. In 2016, the facility was reserved for 272 events including park programs and rentals. Rentals brought in $8,000 that year.
The Scout Building, which is used for voting plus smaller events like baby showers, was used 115 times in 2016, bringing in $4,000 in rental fees.
Both buildings are the site of “lots of important family and community moments,” Otley said.
Board member Cale Hover agreed.
“City Park is very important to this community,” he said.
The new building – which has no name yet – will have three separate reservable spaces with kitchens, so multiple events can be held at the same time. The largest space will be able to handle 250 people. Otley said the park and rec office gets about three requests a month for rental of a space big enough for 250 people – and the new building will allow the city to meet that need.
“These buildings have served us well and we have been lucky to have them,” Otley said. “Let’s ensure that we can serve the public for another 75-100 years.”