Stuart, Neb. (pop. 625), welcomed new additions to the village’s auditorium in November 2000, including a multi-purpose room and meeting room that convert this section into a community center. Other additions include offices and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible bathrooms. Along with the room additions, the auditorium’s electrical wiring and heating system was updated and an air conditioning system was installed.
Stuart’s long history of community gatherings began in 1894 with its first auditorium, a transformed hay barn. The hay barn was replaced in 1938 with a brick facility that featured a gym, stage, kitchen and restrooms.
While well maintained throughout the years, the auditorium needed renovations, such as refinished ceilings, walls and hardwood floors and updated electrical and heating systems. An air conditioning system also was needed in the auditorium. Additional space was desired to accommodate the increasing number of activities and events.
Residents of Stuart, along with various community organizations, were dedicated to renovating the existing auditorium to serve the community’s needs for a large gathering place. Several organizations joined forces including the Community/School Revitalization Committee, Village Board, Auditorium Project Committee, Stuart Community Club, Stuart Development Corporation and various school groups.
To fund the additions and renovations, Stuart applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Governor Mike Johanns awarded Stuart $235,500 in CDBG funds to rehabilitate the auditorium into a multi-purpose community center. Stuart matched the grant with $222,000 in-kind donations and local tax revenue designated for the project.
“Without the block grant funding, all of the needed improvements could not have been made. These improvements have brought in more people from the surrounding area for events and activities,” said Del Stracke, village clerk.
The auditorium now houses sporting events, stage productions, wedding receptions, and family reunions. The multi-purpose room is used for baby showers, gymnastics, and dance classes. The meeting room is used by various organizations for meetings, seminars and workshops.
The additions and renovations have “really made the residents happy,” said Stracke. “The biggest improvement was that it gave us the opportunity to have more than one event at a time, which previously, was a scheduling nightmare,” said Stracke.
Stuart Auditorium/Community Center
Steve Charleston (DED Representative)
(402) 471-3757 • (800) 426-6505