(Photo by Scott Welton, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Losing the old Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3174 hall was a heartbreaker. Nothing cures a heartbreak like new love, however, and there is plenty to love about the VFW's new building.
The first real event for the new facility is scheduled for Sunday, nearly two years after the fire destroyed the old building on Sept. 5, 2006, according to Mike Watson, post commander.
"That's when we're going to have our official opening and building dedication," Watson said. "We've actually been open for a month for bingo."
The VFW's new building is at 709 Smith St. "Same address, just a new building," he said.
"We're just about to get it done. It's really turned out beyond expectations, it's turning out really nice," Watson said. "It's one of the few things that turned out just like I envisioned it."
The hall is significantly larger than the one it replaces.
"The new building is 12,000 square feet. The old one was 7,400 square feet," Watson said. "Our bingo hall is almost as big as the old building was -- it is several thousand square feet. We can seat about 400 right now in our bingo hall."
The VFW bought and removed three houses so they could not only have a bigger building, but also room for more parking.
"We actually ended up buying the whole block," Watson said. "The only thing on this block now is our building and our parking lot."
The additional space has been put to good use with several improvements over the old facility.
"We have a more modern and bigger kitchen, more bathroom facilities and more offices," Watson said. "Our dining room now will seat about 60 where we could only put about 30 in the old one, so it's quite a bit bigger."
He noted the dining area doubles as a smoke-free bingo room for non-smokers on bingo nights.
"We also have a new bar that's not quite finished yet. That's the last thing we're trying to get finished. We're still waiting on some equipment for that," Watson said.
Among the dignitaries scheduled to attend the building dedication are Wayne Asher, state chaplain for the VFW; Olin Parks, commander of the VFW's District 15; U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson; and Christy Ferrell from Sen. Claire McCaskill's office.
"We will have a dinner and then speeches by the politicians," Watson said, "and then we're going to have Miss Emerson award some commemorative medals to the World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans."
While the building dedication is "more for the members and their families, we certainly wouldn't be opposed to anybody from the public who wanted to come," he said.
The general contractor for building's construction is Barry Scroggins of Jackson.
"Our stipulation when we hired him is that he use all local subcontractors," Watson said. "We wanted to try to keep the money in the community."
The total cost for the new building is ending up a bit higher than originally planned.
"We anticipated about $960,000 but then everything has gone up like the parking lot asphalt and the price of steel have gone up -- it's an all steel building," Watson said. "By the time it's all done, it will be about $1.2 million."