YORK – A recent survey, to which more than 900 York area residents responded, shows that the vast majority of respondents want to make all the needed improvements and keep the city auditorium as a hub of activity, entertainment, recreation and more.
The survey was made physically available to attendees of the Yorkfest parade and other downtown events during the annual celebration. Individuals also had the ability to fill out the survey online.
York Parks and Recreation received 911 responses to the survey, according to the survey report. Based on the city’s population figures, this survey represents the opinions of 12 percent of the city’s total population.
Of the responses, 96 percent said yes to the question of “Is the auditorium an asset to the future of the City of York?”
Of the 874 “yes” responses, entertainment led as the most popular suggested usage of the city auditorium (with 55 percent responses of that nature). Recreation followed with 47 percent, offices were next with 18 percent and other usages came in at 4 percent. (It has to be noted that participants were allowed to choose multiple options regarding usage, as well as submit free responses).
The survey summary, provided by the parks and recreation department, says, “in conclusion, it’s obvious that the city auditorium is an asset to the residents of York, Nebraska. It’s regarded as a point of pride in the community because of its aesthetic appeal, historical value and its abilities to fill a variety of purposes. While its specific future usage is up for discussion, the people of York have made it clear: The city auditorium should be here to stay.”
A wide range of possible future uses were offered by survey respondents, including the following: an alternative to the Holthus Convention Center; tournaments for basketball, volleyball and wrestling; pickleball; community events for Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H, service clubs, seminars, etc.; family events such as weddings, reunions, showers, etc.; school events; voting; auctions; apartments; low income housing; an early learning center for Head Start Sixpence collaboration; a “maker” site; public library with an early childhood development center, a career development center, an information literacy center; an enlarged children’s museum; a place to relocate the Palmer Museum; the USO Room could be opened to walkers; the Cross Roads Conference tournaments; a skate park; group work space; rental office space; a jail facility for other counties; a place for Top Golf; a year-round farmers’ market; and as a historical landmark.
Respondents were able to write down their own thoughts as well, on the surveys. These are some of those responses:
“The space is perfect as it functions now.”
“Rental of office space could help offset maintenance costs, but it is simply too valuable a building to be razed. Every structure needs upkeep and maintenance.”
“Let people use the auditorium to walk in the winter months. It is also a good venue for weddings and other medium sized events. It is also nice that it is located in town which is more convenient and safe for elderly to attend special events.”
“I think the historical value is also very important in considering here. The Art Deco design is striking and it certainly has a significant place in the architectural history of York. Having already lost the historic courthouse, the auditorium is the only historic civic building in York.”
“There are many things that can be done in the auditorium. It does not need to be a single use facility. Use it for entertainment and recreation. Keep the children’s museum. If need be, put some offices in the basement. Find a way to utilize it to the fullest. Do not make the mistake of tearing another piece of history down as was done with the courthouse. That was a terrible decision. Stop the madness of throwing out the old and take care of it. It is a beautiful facility.”
“Trendy new programs and projects are always fun and popular but it is the responsibility of the York City Council and the Parks and Rec Department to budget for routine and expected maintenance of York’s valuable infrastructure. The auditorium’s most costly issues have been known for years (especially that the roof and HVAC would soon need replacing, requiring significant expenses) and yet the York City Council and Parks and Rec Department has set aside exactly almost nothing to prepare for vital structural outlays they knew were coming.”
“They should put government offices in it and the communication center should have been put there. Regardless, it is a historical structure that cannot be replaced. It needs to be restored and updated. All three above options. It needs to be multi-purpose with new ideas for uses. It also needs to be listed on the historical register.”
One person listed the auditorium’s current usages: sports, weddings, science expos, graduations, the children’s museum and more. “To me, it still seems to get a lot of use.”
“Build a pool in the north parking lot and move weight room (from community center) to the downstairs or to the north dining room. Now it can double as a community center, bigger basketball/sports courts, and also be available for rentals. Then you only have to keep one building running in the budget not both.”
“Make it cheaper to rent.”
“If we don’t make the effort to maintain it, the sacrifices of the previous residents will disappear just as the historic original courthouse did. This is an iconic structure. If tiny towns like Bee, Nebraska can preserve their WPA history, why can’t York? We pretend we want a downtown? Then the auditorium should be part of it. Fix the roof first, get corporate donations if needed. Use it for the people, continue to rent it, walk in it, update it as needed while keeping the original footprint.”
“Spend the money, it will be well spent. Save the auditorium!”
“Perhaps move Anna Bemis Palmer Museum and the historical society office to the auditorium after the heating/AC is updated.”
“I would hate to see this building be destroyed. It was sad to see the community take out our old courthouse. The auditorium is a part of our history. It should stay. It would be worth putting the money into it to keep it in our town.”
“I understand that the auditorium is an old building with lots of problems. However, it is still and can continue to be an asset to our community.”
“If through some oversight over the years, the necessary repairs have not been done to keep the auditorium functioning, then that is our fault as a community. The fact that we have gotten to the point of demolition is even being considered is a sad state of affairs. It will be expensive, yes. But shouldn’t we spent the money and still have something other than the vacant lot when we’re finished? Perhaps the funding mechanism is already in place to make the necessary repairs. Can we extend or modify the current ballpark/quiet zone sales tax to include the auditorium repairs? I believe that if we can find the funds to create a multi-million dollar ballpark complex which brings visitors dollars to York, we can find the funds to fix the needs at the auditorium and continue its role as a valuable asset and potential revenue producer for the York community.”
A presentation of the findings from the survey will be made at the next council meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17.