Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

City Manager Bruce Johnson invited members of the Grove Rotary Club to help form a community group for the purpose of discussing what should be done with the Grove Civic Center at a Rotary meeting Wednesday, November 18th.

City Council Member Larry Parham, in an interview Friday, elaborated on the city’s goals.

“We have no intentions of eliminating the Civic Center,” Parham explained. “We want to look into building a new one with funds from the old one.”

Parham said the Civic Center currently operates at a net loss of $100,000 per year.

“As a city we’re losing money, and it needs substantial rebuilding. The acoustics are bad, too. It’s just an old Wal-Mart building,” he said.

According the Parham, the council wants to start a citizens’ group in order to find out what citizens really want.

“Our object is to have something more beneficial to the city,” he said.

Although the building is currently costing the city money, Parham believes that situation could be turned around with a little business savvy.

“We are fortunate,” he said. “As it sits today, the Civic Center is probably the most valuable piece of property in Northeastern Oklahoma.”

What Parham proposes is that the city parlay the value of the property into something that will enable them to build a facility better suited for the needs and desires of area residents.

“In the city property rents in a range of $5 to $10 per square foot,” Parham said.

He noted that the Civic Center has 60,000 square feet and could therefore be rented for $300,000 per year.

“Big Lots is already looking at renting 40,000 square feet of the building. Reasors is interested in the whole thing, and Tractor Supply is interested in the whole thing,” Parham said.

“We want something that produces sales tax and gives our citizens the right retail mix. Whatever citizens want, we’ll go after it,” he said.

However, Parham said, before the current Civic Center could be rented to a retail establishment, a new Civic Center would need to be built.

He said if the city sells the two parcels of property in front of the Civic Center to restaurants, such as Appleby’s or Chili’s, it would raise about $1 million.

“We could use the $1 million to fix the building without cash out of pocket,” he said.

Parham said the projected rent from the Civic Center would allow the city to build up to a $20 million project.

“We could build a new facility for $5 to $10 million,” he noted. “But the money we would make on the old Civic Center would support more than that.”

Parham said that ultimately the decision about the fate of the Civic Center rests squarely on the shoulders of the citizens.

“This is just hypothetical,” he said. “We need to decide whether the city wants to be a landlord.”

Parham said he believes the city will be able to create a win/win situation for everyone.

“We just need to get the whole circle rolling,” he concluded. “We’ve got a key – the key is the Civic Center.”