The Civic Center in Downtown Evansville will celebrate its 50th year later this month. The dedication of the 300,000 square foot building happened on May 23, 1969, consolidating agencies of Vanderburgh County and Evansville under the same roof.
If you have ever taken advantage of early voting, paid off a property tax tab or in some cases, had a day in court, you’ve likely visited the Evansville Civic Center Complex.
The 300,000 square foot building falls under the control of the Evansville Vanderburgh County Building Authority. Director Dave Rector says it’s the responsibility of his office to manage the expansive property.
“We are own governmental entity by state statute,” Rector said. “We are not city we are not county. We’re the building authority.
“We have our own employees, our own payroll. We actually own the civic center complex, old national event plaza, the jail, the sheriff’s operations center.”
Rector’s budget also has room for two hockey Zamboni’s housed inside the Ford Center.
Before construction began on the Civic Center in the late 60’s, several prominent downtown landmarks would have to be razed.
One of those, the Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad depot featuring familiar pillars, now the Riverfront, offering a tribute to our four freedoms.
With keys to almost any barrier in the building, rector shares some little known spaces in the Civic Center, one of which considered to be the loudest … A shooting range for EPD officers.
“This is where they do all their training for new recruits and retraining for veteran officers,” said Rector. “That’s a bullet trap back there, and all the bullets fall into a bucket.”
In addition to county and city offices, the EPD Headquarters and courtrooms, the Civic Center has a surprisingly large area of unused space. Thirty-thousand square feet of second and third floor space still sits idle, something rector and his staff hope to fill in the future.
“One of the things we’ve also looked at too is third party leasing,” Rector said, “to get somebody in that space. Besides a government office that we’re looking at, we looked at third party leasing to try to utilize that space. It’s a lot of space to sit empty.”
As the Vanderburgh county jail faces an overcrowding problem, the old county lockup inside the Civic Center is now under-crowded with cells and facilities that don’t meet current DOC standards.
Another oddity of the expansive property is an oddly shaped cement and steel column within the courtyard. At a glance it looks like art, but Rector explains its true and less glamorous function.
“It’s actually a cooling tower,” Rector says. “It’s part of the air conditioning system for the Civic Center.
“It was an architect design or idea to make it more attractive than your normal cooling tower that you see with most buildings.”
The Civic Center will celebrate an anniversary on May 23 with 50 candles on the cake.