Wildlife Hall set to close, unless another group wants it

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
August 31st, 2012

The Grand Forks Wildlife Association has decided to close the doors on the Wildlife Hall for good, unless another non-profit organization would like to take it off their hands.

The membership of the Grand Forks Wildlife Association (GFWA) held a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15 to decide the fate of the old hall and they decided it was a drain on their resources and will be closing the doors on the building for good in mid-October.

“We’ve never been better as far as membership goes,” said GFWA president Brian Hancock. “And financially we’re still in good shape but we’re heading down the wrong road and we’re sinking a lot of money into the hall that could be used elsewhere.”

While the association itself is alive and well — they have about 200 members and have doubled their numbers over the past decade — the association has decided they would like to use the about $500 a month they put toward the hall on other things like more youth programs, conservation initiatives and community events, said Hancock.

The club has also outgrown the hall, which can only comfortably seat about 150 people. Last year they had to host their annual banquet at the Pavillion to accomodate the members.

The hall, located at 7850 2nd Avenue in Grand Forks, has been a popular public venue for four decades. It is owned and operated by the Grand Forks Wildlife Association, which also owns and operates the indoor pistol range and outdoor rifle range. The indoor pistol range is located within the hall but is rarely used, said Hancock.

The outdoor range on Granby Road will remain and, once they’ve freed up some funds, will be able to be improved upon, said Hancock.

The hall was built with funds that were granted to the association 40 years ago.

“We can’t sell it,” said Hancock. “But we can gift it to another non-profit society or we’ll have to desert the building.”

The land is owned by the City of Grand Forks and was leased to the association for 99 years for $1.

In the past, the approximately $500 a month it costs, on average, to keep the hall going was covered by the rentals. But, rental groups have gone down in recent years, said Hancock.

Annual Freaker’s Ball could be in jeopardy over closure

While the reasons for closing the hall are understandable, some local organizations are sad to see it go.

The much-anticipated Freaker’s Ball, which is a fundraiser for Les Folles Jambettes Cancan Troupe, usually uses the Wildlife Hall for their annual event.

Without the hall, the live band costume contest is in serious jeopardy, said Melanie Shenstone, troupe member and manager.

“If we can’t do it, we won’t have those funds and it will make a big impact on what we can do and where we can go,” said Shenstone.

The ball is the only major fundraiser for the troupe. The money is used to pay for their dance hall rentals, costuming and travel expenses over the year. The troupe of high-kicking ladies, has travelled the world representing Grand Forks with their energetic dance routine. Next year they’d planned another trip to represent the country at festivals.

While there are other venues like the Grand Forks Curling Rink, the privately owned Pavillion on Sagamore Road and the Seniors Center, the Wildlife Hall is the only venue in Grand Forks that allows the Troupe to also profit from the bar sales, is large enough for the event and is affordable enough they can make a profit.

“(The closure of the Wildlife Hall) is a real disappointment for a lot of people because Grand Forks has a real lack of halls to do anything in,” said Shenstone.

Hancock said the Wildlife Association is willing to work with Les Folles Jambettes to see if the hall can’t remain opened until after their event.

However, while that may solve the problem for this year’s ball, it won’t help next year or for those other groups looking for a place to host their events.

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