Groups working together to make armory gym space available

Sunday nights after a weekend of volunteering or city events, it’s a ritual for me to call my 83-year-old parents and chat about the week’s events. My parents catch me up on happenings in their city, their health and various family members. When the discussion turns to “whats going on in Marietta”, I am never at a loss to share the many good things going on in our small town. Having been raised in the Marietta area, my mom is always eager to hear about events and happenings in the southeastern part of the State and my father is anxious to gather new stories which will eventually be re-told with great enthusiasm during his Thursday breakfast gathering of his retiree friends. Some have even been inspired to visit after some of his tales!

A recent weekend was no different and when the conversation transitioned to Marietta activities, the topic of the old National Guard building came up as my father is a former National Guard member. We talked about dedicated ASI volunteers, we talked about expenditures made prior to my tenure on council, and what the long-term possibilities to breathe new life into the old building might be. As with any small town, I shared with my dad – “Dad – we have it now and even though I did not agree with the large sums put into the building originally, the city’s got to make it work.” There will always be ideas that conflict and a tendency to hear about things “through the grapevine” that lead folks to conjecture or fear.

So in an attempt to dispel rumors and share how local entities are working together, I decided to write a small opinion piece to share and inform. There are a variety of things which could be done with the second floor of the Armory – the ideas vary from walking tracks to banquet halls. Costs to turn the second floor into a banquet hall via estimates from an architect touted the expense to be over 1 million dollars! In addition to this, if created, such an entity would compete with struggling businesses which rely on banquet business to survive. Thus, many are NOT in support of this.

However, shortly after the fall election, I spoke with one of the newly elected school board members about school and city finances and long-term plans. Frankly, my humble opinion was that this past fall’s race for new school members was much more exciting than the race for city council… but that’s a whole other article! My friend lamented that he wanted to offer young Marietta athletes more and much needed practice time. Parents and students were clamoring for this, but there simply was not enough gym space. The school district was in no position to build a brand new auxiliary gym and the need was immediate. After listening, I blurted out – “don’t build a darn thing; re-do our second floor gym floor at the Armory and in exchange, kids can have some practice time and space until your financial commitment has been paid off!” Although we both laughed about it at the time, the more we thought about it, the more likely we thought this “crazy” idea just might have some merit. Kids would have practice space, parents while waiting on them could eat and shop downtown – what’s not to like? A hardworking and thoughtful team on both the city administration side and the school board and Booster side, formed and began to explore the idea. Currently the Boosters have raised private funds, garnered the support of laborers unions and specialists, secured lighting donations and more materials valued at over $200,000. The governor’s budget includes a $100,000 state appropriation which is waiting to be finalized and will help with any stop gap needs. A potential lease agreement is being crafted – many, many things will have to be discussed and agreed upon prior to a final deal being signed and delivered for Marietta youth and citizens. Whatever time the educational institution which may bid on the lease does not use – will be available for public rental, special downtown events, youth days, and the like.

That’s the pipedream for now! After reading this article, my genuine hope is that you will smile, applaud those that choose to work together for the benefit of all in a cost effective manner and help the city and school district dream about all the possibilities which are yet to come. Somehow, I’m certain this will be one of my dad’s favorite retiree breakfast council stories he will share.

Thank you sincerely for your support and good thoughts. If at any time you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 373-7323.

Cindy Oxender

Marietta City Councilwoman Chair of Buildings, Lands and Parks.