Built in 1927 by Monett contractor M.E. Gillioz, the casino has been the gathering place for every kind of community gathering. According to reservations, the hall is used for around 275 events a year, sometimes more than one at the same time. The hall is used about 200 days a year.
"We know the demand for that type of facility," said City Administrator Dennis Pyle.
For many years the casino has been discussed by Monett City Council members and renovations have gone in the budget. Little work has been done.
"The question is, where do you stop?" Commissioner Jerry Dierker has commented.
Richard Werner, architect with Werner and Associates, has started a building evaluation as the council explores options for improvements. According to Pyle, Werner will assess the building's structural integrity and develop plans for improvements.
"There may be a change in the layout with the kitchen and the bathrooms," Pyle said. "There may be an addition. Technology improvements will be done, definitely."
The most frequently discussed improvement has been adding an addition to the south, including a change in the entrance. Pyle said the lounge and the west entrance were most likely to stay the same.
The casino is used for parties to professional gatherings. Presenters at the annual Water and Wastewater Conference for the Southwest Section, an event that draws around 350 people, often make PowerPoint presentations and could benefit from having Internet access. Pyle figured that with all the rooms in use, the casino can hold between 250 and 300 people, though not comfortably.
Options for holding meetings in Monett are limited. For sheer space, the City Hall Auditorium now has around 585 seats. The Chamber of Commerce's annual membership meeting, which requires seating for a meal, typically attracts around 250 people. In recent years the chamber's meeting has been held in the commons area of the Southwest Area Career Center.
The chamber's Festival of Flavors, an eating event that also requires space for vendors, has been limited to the sale of 300 tickets annually because of facility constraints, said Sarah Hohensee, chamber administrative assistant.
Monett has been considered for a national Babe Ruth tournament, reported Suzy McElmurry, chamber executive director. A national tournament would require the host to provide a banquet for 400 people.
"We would have to go to Springfield or Joplin to find a facility to hold a group like that," said Pyle.
How the casino could fit into a plan for resolving community space needs will be part of Werner's study. Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said the water tower located east of the facility may be removed in coming years. Water in the tower is presently turned over weekly but its use is more as a backup for a major fire than as a strategic part of daily use.
The pending construction of a new Monett Area YMCA center at South Park would provide another community meeting room. However, Pyle said the kinds of requests made to the chamber strongly suggests need for a facility that would be available at all times.
Werner has been asked to develop a phased master plan for casino improvements. Pyle said the council would prefer to pay as work progresses rather than borrow money or go into debt.
"We thought of keeping the casino because of its local significance," Pyle said. "We can add on to what we have. Most people think the location in South Park is ideal. It's the most inviting place in town and in a great setting with the park around it."