Scottville Optimist Club seeks community input on future of building.

October 18, 2017

Scottville Optimist Club seeks community input on future of building.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

The Scottville Optimist Club is facing some tough choices about the future of its building. Since the mid-1970s, the Optimist Center has been the community hall for Scottville. But, the building is getting old and costing the club a lot of money, preventing it from fulfilling its mission of helping the community’s youth.

“We have basically tapped our cash reserves and are running out of options,” said Joe Knowles, president of the club. The building costs the club an average of $27,000 a year to operate. The club generates about $13,000 a year. In addition to regular operating costs, the building is outdated and requires many major repairs including a new heating/cooling system, electrical updates, and new plumbing. The building is also in need of a major facelift inside and out.

“The roof was repaired a couple years ago and it still leaks,” Knowles said.

“There was a time when this hall was self-funded through weekly bingo games,” Knowles said. “When the casino opened and started offering bingo, we saw a major decrease in bingo attendance and eventually were forced to stop, like many other non-profit organizations in the area.”

Hall rentals have been on the decline over the past several years as well. The building has the unique status as being only one of two Optimist Club-owned buildings in Michigan. The other is in Shelby.

“It has become more popular for weddings to take place in outdoor venues in recent years. Plus, we realize that the interior of our building is in need of a lot of updates that our club cannot afford.”

In September the Optimist Club held a general membership meeting to discuss the future of the hall. No decisions were made but it was clear from those in attendance that the membership understood that the club could no longer operate the facility.

As the Optimist Club has been discussing the future of the building, another group — which happens to include some Optimist Club members — has been discussing redeveloping the Optimist-owned grounds into a park with a sculpture as its center point. In June, the Scottville Sculpture Committee announced that it had commissioned local artist Harold Cronk to create a sculpture for the city. The sculpture’s primary theme would be devoted to the Scottville Clown Band with secondary tributes to the town’s history and its agricultural roots. See story here.

In order for the committee to receive cultural grants from the state, the sculpture must sit on municipal property.

“The concept has been to place the city on a newly created green space in what is currently the parking lot in front of the Optimist Center,” said City Manager and committee member Amy Williams. “It was originally believed that this area was Optimist property and the Optimist board was willing to donate that property to the city. We have since found out, through land records, that the property is actually the city’s.” Williams is also an Optimist board member.

Knowles said regardless of ownership, the Optimist Club wants to leave a legacy to the community, not an eyesore.

“In a perfect world, I would love to modernize, and maybe even expand, this building,” Knowles said. “But, I am not really sure if that’s a reality. I also do not think it would be good stewardship to Scottville to sell this building and let it sit here and become a warehouse or some type of commercial space. Many of us believe that this entire space is more valuable to the city as a redevelopment into a park.”

Many people have suggested that the Optimist Club try selling the metal building under the condition that it is dismantled and moved.

“I think this space could continue to be a gathering place for Scottville, but just with a different structure here,” Knowles said. “We already have the Clown Band Shell. Many have suggested that we replace the building with a large pavilion that the city could rent out.”

Knowles said many ideas have been bounced around between the Optimist Club, the sculpture committee, and city officials. However, the Optimist Club would like to hear from the public as well.

A town hall meeting is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the hall. The public is asked to attend and express suggestions about the future of the building.

“If we could get several groups together that would commit a large sum of money to fix up this building and maintain it, then we are certainly open to hearing from those groups,” Knowles said. “Though this building belongs to the Optimist Club, it is really the community’s building. We welcome volunteers who want to help us through this process.”

Knowles said that anyone who is unable to make the meeting and would like to share their thoughts or ideas about the future of the building, may reach him at Smith & Eddy Insurance at 231-757-4743 or email

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