Manhattan City Commission Halts Project Amid Community Backlash

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Concerned citizens and local veterans continue to fight for a living memorial in Manhattan’s city hall and their hard work has paid off. City officials have listened to their feedback and have decided to look at alternatives instead of moving ahead with plans for an overhaul of the space.

A growing group of people do not want the city to remodel the Peace Memorial Auditorium.

The auditorium was built in the 1950s as a living memorial to the 2,610 Riley County veterans who served and the 101 Riley County soldiers who died in World War II.

The city had plans to remove the auditorium’s stage and seating to make way for two practice basketball courts and office space for the Parks and Department Department. The department's offices are currently located in the city park.

The city asked the Manhattan City Commission in 2012 to take a look at the auditorium for possible renovation to bring the Parks and Rec offices over to city hall.

Deputy City Manager Jason Hilgers says the $2.9 million renovation project would create “efficiencies,” eliminating two customer service positions and improving inter-office workings.

During the Manhattan City Commission meeting Tuesday night, Hilgers recommended that the city move ahead with the design plans to remodel the space. But community members and the local Historic Resources Board asked the city commission to explore other options.

"This auditorium is important to save because if we take away this lovely memorial and repurpose it, who knows what’s going to happen throughout the United States with all kinds of places that are going to be repurposed," said Randi Dale, who would like to see the auditorium refurbished.

"By ripping out the theater, you’re ripping out the heart of the memorial that was built to honor the vets in World War II," added Susan Dale.

Hilgers outlined the auditorium's history Tuesday night, revealing that it took 17 years, from 1938 to 1955, to gain voter approval and to design and construct it.

After a lengthy public comment session, the Manhattan City Commission voted to look at alternatives that would keep the stage, in a 3-2 vote. The original plan to move forward with the remodel design also failed in a 3-2 vote.


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