Several events to be relocated because of armory closurePublished 8:16pm Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Leaders of the Selma Lions Club have decided to close the old National Guard Armory building to the public because of widening leaks in the roof, and the effects of this closure will be felt throughout the calendar year.
Club members have been keeping an eye on the leaks for several months, but when the problem became worse in recent weeks, they decided it was time to close the building while they consider their options.
“We just closed the building off to public usage because of maintenance issues right now. We are trying to figure how much it would cost to get the repairs taken care of,” said Lions Club member and facility manager Chris Graham. “I can tell you that when it rains, it comes straight through the roof. So, its just not a good idea to try and let people some inside and use it.”
Graham stressed the building’s closure would not affect the Central Alabama Fair, which the Lions Club hosts on the property each fall.
Built in 1960, the arched brick and metal structure has served as the host site for countless events through the years since it was purchased by the Selma Lions Club in 1995.
Graham acknowledged the building’s closure and uncertain future would force local event organizers to find other venues.
“Other people that use the building are, unfortunately, they are going to have some other place to hold it, unless it can be moved outside here at our property,” Graham said. “They are going to have to look for some place while we look over our options and get the necessary money.”
Along with its usage during the Lions Club’s Central Alabama Fair, the building has hosted events organized by the Selma Charity League, SABRA Sanctuary, and Little Lambs, among others.
Nancy Travis, executive director of SABRA Sanctuary, said her organization may be forced to hold its annual auction at a different location if the armory is not fixed soon.
“We may have to go back to the Carl C. Morgan Convention center if we have to,” Travis said. “We used to have our events at there in the past, but we have really outgrown it. It’s hard to find a place bigger than the armory in Selma.”
Selma Charity League president Mary Susan Crovato said the armory has been the perfect venue for the organization’s annual Chips for Charity fundraising event.
“It’s very sad the armory is closing. We really don’t know what we’ll do,” Crovato said. “It’s been crucial for us to have our event at a place that size. The location is perfect, the parking is perfect, and you don’t have to deal with the traffic of downtown.”
Sheryl Smedley, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, said there are plenty of venues in the area that could host large events.
“The good news is this is not the only venue in the city. The city has several public facilities and I know that on the property, the Lion’s Club even has a pavilion that is available as well,” Smedley said. “I don’t think that it’s going to hinder people from wanting to have an event in the community.”
When considering the future of the building, Haskell said the Lions Club members have not yet considered demolishing the structure and building a new one.
“The biggest reason we haven’t talked about knocking it down is that when you tear down a building, you are looking at spending $1 million, and we don’t have that kind of money,” Haskell said. “That would be our last resort.”
Crovato said she could not fathom losing the building that has been so important to both the community and herself.
“If they can’t fix the roof and are forced to level the building, the loss on a personal level would be difficult for me to take,” Crovato said. “I have so many memories of going to the fair over the years and that building is such a huge part of those memories.”