Historic Pinconning Community Center is getting an upgrade

With about half the funds they need in hand, the Friends of the Pinconning Community Center is working on renovations that will breathe new life into what was once a gymnasium.

The Pinconning Community Center, originally known as the Jankowiak Building, was a Works Projects Administration project.While work begins, the Friends group is planning an online auction to add help raise $255,000 to improve the building at 200 N. Mable St. in Pinconning and make it more useable for special events, concerts, and more.

Dennis Curtis is president of the Friends group, a 501c3 organization that formed in 2019 to preserve the building, which was originally named the Jankowiak Building.

“It’s built like a fortress,” he says about the building, which is a testament to the work done in 1937 when the Jankowiak Building was constructed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Curtis said the Friends group hoped finding information on the WPA project would help get some grant money, but because the building isn’t 100 years old, it doesn’t yet qualify as a Historic Preservation Site.

“It’s well worth saving, though,” he says, adding, “You couldn’t build it today for a quarter of a million dollars.”

The building, which served as a recreational athletic facility for years, was originally named for John W. Jankowiak, a prominent local businessman and an avid athlete. Curtis says over the years the building fell into disrepair and was closed down in the late 1990s. The Pinconning Downtown Development Authority took ownership in the early 2000s, and “they immediately began the process of getting it to a point of usability.”

The building has a small kitchen area, an office, a lobby, a stage, a gym, two bathrooms, and a full basement. Curtis says over the years some improvements were made to keep it safe and usable, but a lot more work needs to be done.

While fundraising efforts continue, work has begun to upgrade the acoustics inside the building.Over the last several years a number of community groups have used the building, and there have been some events held there, but a lack of barrier-free access, the small kitchen, and problems with acoustics take away from its functionality.

“Our plans include improved ceiling structure in the gym and stage area to provide better acoustics and insulation,” says Curtis, who says the sound issues are among the first being addressed. A special sound dampening board is being installed that should help.

Simoni Systems of Saginaw started installing Tectum, a special wall-board that will dampen the reverberation of sound. Curtis says their consultant measured the sound reverberation and found there are about four seconds where sound bounces around the room, making it difficult for an audience to hear.

“If you have a bunch of people in there and you have someone on a microphone and they’re talking that is bouncing around for four seconds, so it’s so garbled.”

Once the sound issues are addressed, Curtis says the Friends group hopes to hold winter activities there, such as concerts similar to what the Pinconning Arts Council does in the summer with Tuesdays in the Park. “But until the sound is taken care of, that’s not going to happen.”

Next on the list is making the building barrier-free. Curtis says there are currently two small restrooms in the back of the building. He says the plan is to build a new ramp and restrooms at the front of the building, making it easier for people to access

Fundraising during COVID-19 has been difficult, but Curtis says the Friends group is doing what it can.

An online auction later this month is the next fundraising effort for the center.Last February, the group brought in a theater troupe from Detroit and hosted a successful Murder Mystery Dinner. It offered Big Band dance nights and held a live auction to raise funds. Curtis says they planned other events but “because of COVID it has put our fundraising at a standstill.”

The Friends aren’t giving up, though. The group is now accepting donations for items to be auctioned off online. The auction runs from Feb. 22 to March 1. So far, people have donated hunting and fishing items, household goods, personal items, and collectibles for the auction.

Curtis says donations are accepted through Jan. 24.  To learn what’s been donated so far, visit the group’s Facebook page. Items also will be made available for viewing before the auction at the Community Center. If you win an item, the group will explain how to pick it up.

Although the work has begun, the timeline isn’t firm. Fundraising efforts will be ongoing.

“Will we get it done in the next year? Probably not,” he says. “The goal is to have the money raised to get as much done as we can.”