What began as a discussion after a rained-out wedding in Ariel-Foundation Park's Schnormeier Event Center in the fall of 2016 is finally becoming a reality. It's been a long process, but the installation of large overhead doors on the event center will be completed sometime in June.
Michael Percy, Foundation Park Conservancy board member, worked for months with an architect to develop the concept and to obtain prices from several different companies. The goal was to complete major supplemental upgrades methodically, so as not to alter the architectural integrity and uniqueness of the park, but to enhance its use.
A generous grant from the Ariel Foundation has allowed the Conservancy to do just that, while preserving the industrial heritage of the facility. The new doors, featuring smoked safety glass panels and an oil-rubbed bronze finish, provide wind and rain protection as well as privacy for events. The 4-foot opening above the doors will allow for better air flow and a reduced wind load on the building while the doors are in use.
Initial drawings were submitted to the State of Ohio Board of Building Appeals in September of 2017. A major hurdle developed when Percy learned that a fire suppression system, required by the state, would add as much to the project's overall cost as the doors themselves, partially due to the lack of sufficient water lines in the area.
"In talking with the city, we learned that it would be two more years before water lines would be updated in this area," Percy explained. "It was our hope that the state would allow us to delay the addition of the sprinkler system until those water lines were in place."
In November, Percy and FPC President Kim Rose traveled to the Board of Building Appeals appeal session in Columbus and were successful in gaining approval for a temporary variance in which the fire suppression system would be added within the next three years.
There were other roadblocks along the way as well. "Due to the current structure of the building, steel had to be attached for the doors, which meant additional engineers had to review the project to evaluate wind load," said Percy. "The cost continued to rise with the addition of five state-required egress doors. There's no good way of doing that in a large garage door."
Percy added that the panels on either side of the event center stage will be fixed, for which many of the park's concert series musicians will be grateful as they and their equipment will be sheltered from the wind. Brides, grooms and their families will also have restful minds knowing that rain will no longer threaten their special day at Ariel-Foundation Park.
The public may be interested to know that the event center will now also be part of a fire watch program which means that if all the doors are down, the park is required to have one trained person assigned to watch for fire. Fixed doors are located per code, ensuring that guests are never more than 100 feet from a point of egress.
"The addition of these beautiful doors is a huge benefit to our community and to the Conservancy," said FPC President Kim Rose. "It allows for greater use of the buildings, extending our season into May and October; it protects those who have rented the building for private events; and allows the building to be darker earlier for events like Movie Monday which gets our families home sooner."
Foundation Park Conservancy wishes to thank Ariel Foundation for funding this massive undertaking, and Mount Vernon Overhead Door, Custom Cutters, and Miller Electrical Solutions for bringing the project to life.