Repairs and renovations to the old Comer Auditorium in Bibb City – now the Comer Center – have all but been completed and the grand reopening is about a month away, according to Deputy City Manager David Arrington.
Long a cultural landmark and centerpiece in Bibb City, the gym was famous for the basketball tournaments it once hosted. It was still in use, but was showing its age.
Then, in September of 2011, heavy rains caused a large portion of the roof to collapse, flooding the gym and offices on the main floor and offices and mechanical systems in the basement. The collapsed roof also broke sprinkler system pipes, adding to the deluge and damage.
After some debate, Columbus Council voted shortly thereafter to spend about $2 million to bring the building back to life. Insurance paid about $830,000 of that.
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Among the features rescued were the iconic cupola atop the gym, which was completely rebuilt, and several sets of ornate doors that were original to the building. They were discovered, restored, painted and hung in the building’s entrance, Arrington said.
That entrance has been restored as closely as possible to the original design, Arrington said. At some point, the front porch had been enclosed to create a larger foyer. Under the renovation, the front porch has been restored and the smaller foyer will serve as an informal Bibb City history museum.
Some offices have been combined into larger rooms to serve as community meeting rooms, Arrington said. One such room will serve as a rest station of sorts for public safety personnel to use.
“It’s not a precinct,” Arrington said. “But it will be a place for public safety to stop, do paperwork, take a restroom break. It will also serve to increase their presence in Bibb City.”
The hardwood gym floor, which was ruined by the flooding, has been replaced, but the original wooden bleachers remain in good condition and in use.
The official grand reopening date has not been set, Arrington said, but he expects it to be in about a month.