Civic work: Bonifas Civic Center undergoes transformation

ESCANABA – Renovations that will bring the Bonifas Civic Center up to current Americans with Disabilities Act regulations are well underway thanks to a donation by Patt and the late John Besse.

“This building was built in ’67-’68,” said Escanaba Recreation Director Tom Penegor. “The bathrooms were never ADA compliant because there was no ADA rules and regulations like there are today.”

Four bathrooms are being renovated to meet the current requirements. The two bathrooms located on the eastern, recreation side of the building are being remodeled first, with the bathrooms on senior citizen center side of the building to follow.

Following the renovation, all of the bathrooms in the building will have wider doors, new partitions, new ceiling tiles, and sinks and toilets at heights appropriate for people with disabilities.

“There could be people who come in for a party or an activity and might need some assistance. In years past we didn’t have that to offer them. I’m sure it’s very much of a challenge … already to be disabled to a point where you need help, and our facilities really don’t provide that like we should,” said Penegor.

In addition to the four bathrooms, the renovations will include the creation of a second locker room adjacent to the gymnasium and updates to the existing locker room.

“We only have one so we would put a sign up on the door when ladies were in there or when men were in there or boys or girls,” said Penegor. “We were always fortunate nobody ever monkeyed around with the signs.”

Both locker rooms will feature handicap accessible showers, new lockers, benches, and ADA compliant bathroom fixtures.

As part of the renovation, a push button, handicap accessible, automated door has been installed on the main entrance to the building. A matching system was previously installed on the entrance used for senior citizen center activities.

The entire renovation project at the Civic Center is expected to be completed by the end of August – before children start frequenting the Civic Center for after school programs.

Last year, nearly 600 children were registered for after school programs through the Civic Center.

“Our average is 50 kids a day during the week and then on Saturday we get about 500 people here,” said Penegor, noting the weekend spike in attendance was tied to the Civic Center’s youth basketball programs.

According to Penegor, the total cost of the renovation projects is expected to be roughly $124,000, and the project is completely funded by a $150,000 donation from John and Patt Besse. If there is money left over, better insulated windows will be installed on the north and west walls of the building.

“(Patt Besse) is very familiar with the facility partly because her son came here a lot,” noted Penegor, adding that Patt Besse’s son had health problems and passed away recently.