Full Coliseum Project Estimated at $30 Million
Included whole interior renovation, additional rooms, new acoustics and bringing up to code; County may seek state grants to cover project
The full restoration and updating of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum will cost more than originally planned, forcing the Vanderburgh County Commission to regroup for the project.
Last July, the commission directed County Attorney David Jones to seek bonds and loans to eventually begin overhauling the nearly 110 year-old building.
However, the estimated cost of $30 million dollars was more than they’d planned, said Commissioner Ben Shoulders, who is also on the Coliseum Committee.
He expected something closer to $15 or $20 million.
This was for as he put it — “the whole shebang” — new capital expenditures like structural work such as plumbing and electrical and renovations and additions.
“Redoing the stage and the main ballroom,” he said. “The acoustics in there aren't the greatest. So redoing the sound systems, redoing the back rooms, dressing rooms, exhibit halls.”
So now, they might order a feasibility study to find out exactly what the building needs to stabilize it and bring it up to code.
The county does have $6 million set aside for improvements, but to make up the $24 million dollar gap, they want to approach the Indiana House of Representatives for any possible grants. “If we go that route to the state, we would have to wait until the next session on that,” he said.
That $6 million is from the American Rescue Plan, and needs to be used by the end of 2025.
“We're looking to redo everything. And hopefully by the time it gets done, it will be the number one venue in Evansville,” said Jerry Blake, commander of the County Veterans Council which is leasing the building long-term from the county for $1 per year.
The facility is currently used for events like bingo and semi-pro wrestling.
“We have people who come in from out of town that want to rent it because it's one of the largest places downtown to get people into,” Blake said. “The problem, is it's an older structure. So we need to redo the bathrooms and basically the interior and upgrade the heating and the air and electrical gear. That's a lot of money.”
Blake said some of the first VFW conventions were held at this building.
The Coliseum will also be the future home of the Evansville Civic Theatre which plans to vacate its building on N Fulton Avenue.