Galesburg looking at options to renovate National Guard Armory

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It used to be a hub for decades worth of National Guard events, and now, the armory in Galesburg sits unused, a relic of time gone by.

"It's just another vacant building you see downtown," Maximum Performance owner Arthur Bitsonbarger said.

Galesburg city leaders want to change that by giving it new life, but what it becomes is up in the air.

Burl Varner runs the Fat Fish Pub right across the street from the armory. That building always comes up in conversation.

"The main one was always an event center with concerts, wedding receptions and trade shows," Varner said.

It's a plan he's fully behind, because bigger events mean bigger business for the bar.

"If they start doing something bigger, they're going to get more people from further away and staying all night. It's going to benefit the city so much," Varner said.

Just next door to the armory is Maximum Performance Gym. Owner Arthur Bitsonbarger has another idea for the building in mind.

"Citywide, a recreational area would be beneficial, especially for senior citizens, who are central around this area in the square," Bitsonbarger said.

The cost for renovations could run anywhere from $3-4 million, and money for the work is already in place. Both men think it'll be money well spent.

"Honestly, I think the sooner the better," Varner said.

"The building was put in there in 1913, so it'll probably need a lot of updates," Bitsonbarger said.

Even though people have different ideas on what should go into the National Guard Armory in Galesburg, the consensus is that they want these doors unlocked, and have something go in.

"Anything they can do with it would benefit anything downtown," Bitsonbarger said.

That's the option they want to see work out the most.

The most expensive option shown to city leaders was the event center idea, but Varner hopes that they look at other similar buildings in the area that can show off the possibilities of the space.

Galesburg City Council members pushed back any decision on the armory until they could hear from the public about all the options. There's no timetable right now for when that meeting would happen.

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