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Monett City Council takes first look at Casino plans

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Monett City Park Casino, built in 1926 by M.E. Gillioz, is scheduled to be demolished after the August 7 primary election, following its last use as a polling place. Monett City Council members are pondering designs for a replacement building that would be one-and-a-half times the size of the current structure. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Architect Richard Werner has delivered an initial floor plan for a new City Park Casino to Monett City Council members. Werner brought his floor plan to a work session of council members on Monday.

Werner explained the wood trusses in the 1926 building have sagged. The bowing has not only weakened support for the roof, but also pushed out the top of the walls.

"The engineer [who studied the building] said there could be a catastrophic failure and the building would just collapse," said Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch.

"It's just old," Werner said. "You've been lucky you haven't had a problem."

Werner's challenge was to find a design that would significantly increase the space available while still retaining the charm of the historic building.

"I'm trying to keep a intimate structure, not build another mega-structure," Werner said.

Werner proposed replacing the current 5,690-square-foot building with an 8,073-square-foot building. He suggested a more rectangular building than the current structure with a dog-leg on the west side for the patio, allowing for a streamlined roof.

Instead of having a hallway dividing meeting rooms, Werner proposed having a central entrance from the south, using glass curtain walls, going into a long room that can be used for serving food. A small kitchen with warming tables for serving, not with stoves for food preparation, would be on one side. Bathrooms would be on the other.

The entry hall would lead to a large hall. Room dividers would be available to separate off the west end, creating a smaller space similar to the present patio.

Without the divider, the 30-by-30-foot west end becomes part of a larger rectangular hall measuring 50-by-100 feet. Werner figured the smaller meeting room would provide seating for about 60 people at tables, whereas the larger hall would hold 350 at tables. With just chairs, the hall would seat around 600.

Werner wanted to create a space that fit into the park. To do that, he proposed placing concrete outdoor terraces on both the east and south sides. The east terrace would sit almost entirely under a patio roof. The south terrace would extend from the entrance hall around to the east terrace, large enough to hold 20 tables or seat an additional 160 people.

Doorways would open the main hall onto both terraces and out the west end, similar to the current patio.

Werner said the stage in the current building represents mostly lost space. He proposed using a portable stage. That way, the west end could become a center for musicians and dancing, or a stage could be set against one of the long walls for central viewing.

Council members had different views on having an office for a caretaker, the size of the kitchen and storage. Rauch, whose office hosts the annual water and wastewater conference at the casino for around 300 people, wanted adequate wireless Internet and electrical conduits to handle audio-visual presentations.

Major issues centered around whether Werner's proposal could be built for a $900,000 budget. Commissioner Jerry Dierker said the cost could rise to $150 per square foot, including the exterior work.

Council members had the option of reducing the central hall by 20 percent, Werner said, and still offer a facility that serves the present needs. City Administrator Dennis Pyle said he would rather see a larger facility if possible. Rauch said if the hall had capacity to seat 500 people, he believed gatherings that large would come.

Council members asked Werner to prepare a more detailed drawing beyond a floor plan and to run more detailed projections on the cost. Werner anticipated taking about two weeks to expand the plans before meeting with the council again.

Council members planned to present details of the project to their Community Advisory Board on May 22 before making any decisions on the final design.

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