Memorial Center Then and Now
The concept of a performing arts center evolved in the late 1990’s. At this time the Memorial Gym was the facility used for community performances.
Around 2000, Libby received a grant through the efforts of US Senator Conrad Burns for 11.5 million dollars. 3.5 million dollars were to be spent on the hospital and the rest was to be spent on community development. A corporation called Libby Area Development Corporation (LADC) was formed. LADC was made up of business men and women along with community representatives from various backgrounds. This organization developed a process for applying for funds for either a grant or a loan. Anyone in the Libby/Troy area was eligible to apply for the funds. If the application was approved by LADC and then by the Libby City Council you were in business.
In the late 1990’s an organization called the Kootenai Heritage Council (KHC) was formed to enhance the arts in the area and explore locations for a permanent facility. After studying several locations the Memorial Gym was selected because of location, ownership and its historical value. The building at this time had been returned to the school district from the county because the college had moved to the vacated Forest Service building.
A 40 year lease was negotiated with the school district for the property, 2.1 million in grants were secured and construction began with a local contractor securing the bid. KHC had determined a multiple use facility would better serve the community, with that in mind this is what you see today.
When construction was completed in 2002 the facility was opened. It became evident the operation of such a facility was overwhelming and a director was hired. The facility operated under the guidelines of the KHC board and a director until 2010 when the board made the decision to operate without a director. At the present time the Memorial Event Center is run by volunteers.
The Memorial Center is 16,000 square feet with 30 foot ceilings. It is heated by fuel oil, AC by electricity, phone, lights, Internet, insurance and general maintenance is always ongoing. It’s easy to see the utility costs can be challenging. Funding for the facility is done through rentals, live performances, membership, grants and some very supportive community members through their philanthropy. The present annual budget is between $50,000 and $60,000.
The Center has hosted multiple events to include but not limited to drama productions, artist performances, school events, weddings, funerals, fund raising, retail events, etc. etc.. In conclusion the Center is doing its job and the facility is performing as it was designed.