So many memories have been made in this building.
Wedding receptions, library book sales, volleyball games and pancake feeds are just a few of the activities that have taken place in the stately brick structure at 925 N. Broad St.
The Fremont City Auditorium — built during the tough financial times of the Great Depression — was dedicated in 1937 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Decades of use can take a toll on any building — no matter how sturdily constructed — and updates to keep it current with modern need can necessitate renovation.
So, work on a $2.7 million renovation project is currently underway for the auditorium.
“This is an exciting project,” said Kim Koski, director of the Fremont Parks and Recreation Department. “It had been talked about long before I was director and now it’s finally happening.”
The renovation began in June 2019 and was expected to be completed by the end of September 2020, however, 17 days have been added to that schedule due to the discovery of additional asbestos and its removal and additional demolition, Koski said.
When completed, the auditorium can again become a place of wedding receptions, family gatherings, meetings and other events.
The approximately 28,750-square-foot building consists of a basement area, a main floor area (19,506 square feet), a tiered seating area (5,000 square feet) above the main floor and a second floor consisting of occupied space.
Koski said the focus is on the first (main) floor for the renovations, which include:
The stage. It will remain in place, but will be walled off and used for storage.
- Luxury vinyl tile will be installed over the existing floor.
- A dividing wall will be installed. This wall can be opened for larger space to host events such as wedding receptions, coin shows, quinceañeras, fundraisers and pancake feeds. When the dividing wall is in use, it will divide the gym into two separate meeting spaces. Each side will have a large-screen television on the wall, projector and USB capabilities.
- Acoustical panels will be installed on each side for better quality when using public address systems.
- The restrooms will be moved from the basement to the main floor. Restrooms in the basement have been capped off and are no longer functional. Main restrooms will consist of seven stalls in the women’s and two toilets and three urinals in the men’s. All new restrooms will be Americans with Disabilities Act accessible.
- The existing meeting space on the west side of the building will be updated and will have single-stall men’s and women’s restrooms.
New meeting room.
- This room is on the east side of the building where the parks and recreation offices were situated before they were moved to the Fremont City Municipal Building at 400 E. Military Ave.
- Both meeting spaces will have information technology capabilities, tables and chairs and counter space.
- The existing terrazzo floor in the main entrance will remain and be refurbished.
- The roof will be replaced. Work is ready to begin when the weather improves.
- The kitchen will be updated and will be more user-friendly, Koski said.
- New kitchen appliances will include sinks, an industrial-size refrigerator and freezer and two large, warming ovens. A middle island work station will be installed. During a meeting of the parks and recreation’s advisory board, Koski said the kitchen will be more cater-friendly. Caterers can bring in their already prepared food, put it in the warming ovens and have it ready for serving.
- The balcony (the site of the tiered seating area) will be walled off like the stage and will become a storage area and house new mechanical equipment. The chairs will remain in place.
- The needed areas will have repairs and tuck-pointing, or the repair and replacement of mortar between broken brick. Cracks, voids and crumbling mortar is common in masonry work from general exposure after 25 or 30 years, Koski said.
- A fire sprinkler will be installed, something not done previously because it was grandfathered in as the building was constructed before these automatic systems were required.
- Additional items include new storm windows, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, lights and a control panel. “With new lighting and HVAC, we are planning on the building being more energy-efficient,” Koski said.
In May 2018, Fremonters passed a $2 million bond issue to restore the historic building. The city also budgeted $750,000 for the project and received a $1.125 million Civic and Community Center Financing Fund grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis.
Koski said the CCCFF grant is the largest grant ever awarded to the City of Fremont.
Schemmer Associates was hired for the professional engineering design and construction services. This includes design development, a construction document and bidding — all of which have been completed — along with construction administration, which is underway. The cost for these services is $172,500.
Initially, the estimated total project cost by Schemmer Associates was listed in a pre-bid at $3.4 million.
Four bids were received, with Cheever Construction in Lincoln having the lowest responsible bid, Koski said.
After checking references, Schemmer recommended that the city council award the bid and project to Cheever Construction.
Koski said the total cost for the renovation project is $2,725,320. This includes costs for additional demolition and materials at $14,320.
Asbestos testing was completed before demolition and areas were identified by the consultant that needed to be removed, Koski said.
As demolition progressed, Koski said, additional asbestos was found and needed to be removed. This delay added 17 days to the timeline.
“Sometimes the original drawings show one thing and the actual building shows something different,” she said.
For example, Cheever had to conduct additional demolition of the concrete ceiling in small vault room, remove a plaster bulkhead in east meeting room and demolish concrete tunnels by the stage to accommodate for new concrete footings.
Koski said the city has monthly meetings with the Schemmer and Cheever teams.
“During these meetings, we discuss where we are in the project, upcoming construction, any issues, do walk-throughs and take progress photos,” she said. “Each time I go for a progress meeting, it’s amazing how things have progressed. Demolition was the time-consuming part of the project. We’re now in the construction phase and it’s great to see the plans on paper coming together.”
Koski said the auditorium is a beautiful building with great structure and architecture.
“As we went through the demolition process, it’s amazing how well the building was constructed and what they were able to accomplish in the late 1930s, basically by hand with limited tools and equipment,” she said.
Koski said once the renovations are complete, the auditorium will be a great venue for larger events like wedding receptions and the two small rooms will work great for smaller parties and family gatherings.
Rental fees have not been set yet and more information on that will be available in the spring.
“We don’t want to be cost-prohibitive for renters,” Koski said. “We want people to use the building for events.”
Koski said the City has had a few inquiries about renting the spaces.
“We are penciling in requests with the understanding that the rental is not guaranteed,” she said. “We will have a better idea of when we can start confirming availability in the spring as construction progresses.”
And with that availability can come opportunities for the making of many more memories.