A project to tear down the old theater at McClellan to make room for a new parking lot and additional recreation space is getting underway more than a year after the Anniston City Council approved the plan.
“It’s unsightly and too far gone to try to save it and use it,” City Manager Don Hoyt said of the theater, which was erected in 1980, according to county records. “The best thing is to go ahead and make a decent parking lot out of it.”
Hoyt said the new parking lot would add curbs, gutters and landscaping.
The delay in getting the project underway, Hoyt said, was due to “no particular reason except the wheels of government move kind of slow sometimes,” he said, noting the changeover on the City Council and budgeting as possible factors.
Already, he said, the McClellan Development Authority has transferred the parcel of land to the city so it can tear down the theater and continue with the parking project.
Steven Folks, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the project will “be a great help” and that with the sporting events going on pretty much year-round, parking is always an issue in the area.
Soccer games over the weekend, he said, were a good example of the problem, with attendees having to park along the side of the road.
“Parking is challenging, but it’s a good challenge,” he said, noting the success of the Aquatic and Fitness Center.
The city is accepting bid proposals for asbestos removal and disposal in the old building through April 25. Once the city awards the project, the winning bidder will have 90 days to complete the asbestos remediation. Folks said he hopes to have the project completed by the end of summer.
Folks said that where the old theater stands, the city will create a green space with a pavilion for family gatherings and use the rest of the area as parking. He estimates the project will provide an additional 80-100 spaces.
Folks said the plan is to turn the theater property, adjacent to a duck pond and gazebo, into a family-friendly destination that parents can enjoy with their children. He said families can come for soccer or baseball games and then make use of inexpensive recreation features to “get back to nature.”
City officials said they will know the cost of the project once bids for asbestos removal are received. Hoyt said most of the additional work for the project will be completed in-house by city employees using city equipment.
There has been at least one attempt to save the old theater after the fort closed in 1999. Former Mayor Gene Stedham attempted to secure the building under a partnership with the Alabama Arts Council in 2000.
“I thought we could have a series of events there every year,” he said, adding that he ran into a number of roadblocks. “I couldn’t get the support on the council.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.