WISNER — Residents of Wisner were given a final look Wednesday night at remodeling plans for its city auditorium.

The $1.2 million project will be open for bids after the first of the year following the receipt of a grant this week that helped the city reach its fundraising goal.

A $75,000 grant from the Gardner Foundation, which is based in Wakefield, put the amount of donations and grants over the top.

At $1,010,000, the funds raised to date are enough to facilitate the next step, said Wisner City Administrator Al Vacanti who led Wednesday evening’s forum. He filled in for Nathan Kalaher of Plan Architecture who was unable to attend due to icy roads.

A civic and community center finance grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, and grants from the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation and Louis and Abby Faye Dinklage Foundation, both of Cuming County, join sizable donations to make up the funds raised.

Incentives in the form of state income tax credits have been offered to individuals and businesses interested in making $5,000 donations; those remain for sale, Vacanti said. In addition, $100,000 in city sales tax revenue has been earmarked for the project, if necessary.

Any individual or business wishing to make a donation of $1,000 or more to the project will be given a free day’s rental of the auditorium.

The lion’s share of the remodeling will take place in the main social hall, as well as the kitchen. The current ceiling will be removed to expose rafters overhead.

“The peak of the building needs to be highlighted,” Vacanti said, and will be expanded to the height it was “when kids played basketball here a few years ago.”

The auditorium was used by Wisner High School for its athletic events before the Wisner-Pilger school consolidation.

The concrete wall on the east side of the building will be replaced with an expanse of windows, and the interior will be given a lighter, brighter look.

Updates will be completed to the heating and air conditioning systems, plus the electrical system.

“Lots of the money will be spent on things you don’t see,” Vacanti said, explaining that those updates will allow the facility to run more efficiently than it has in the past.

Local caterers gave input on remodeling the auditorium kitchen. The existing food preparation islands will be replaced with one running in the opposite direction to facilitate ease of serving.

Wisner Community Development played a key role in the project, Vacanti said, making an initial planning grant available to get the project off the ground.

Several years ago, a citizen committee met to identify possible improvements after asking for input from the community.

The auditorium, built in 1956 with seating for more than 500, was last remodeled in 1996.

Although the project won’t increase the building’s capacity, it will make the facility competitive with new community centers in surrounding towns.

The remodeling project will give a 30- to 40-year extension to a valuable asset, Vacanti said about the town’s auditorium.

The targeted date for completion is the last quarter of 2019.

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