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March 22 08:26 AM
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Historic grandstands destroyed by fire


September 02, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Less than two weeks before a special dedication ceremony for the restored R.A. Grettenberger grandstands, the historic structure caught fire in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Sept. 2.

The fire ravaged the entire structure. Only a portion of the back wall of the grandstands remains.

An investigator with the Michigan State Police was due to inspect the scene sometime this morning. The cause of the blaze is unknown. Imlay City Fire Chief Kip Reaves was unavailable for comment.

The grandstands were originally built in the 1930s by a Works Progress Administration crew, a federal program designed to create jobs during the Great Depression.

The Imlay City Alumni Association undertook a campaign to save the grandstands, named after longtime Superintendent R.A. Grettenberger, from the wrecking ball nearly two years ago. They collected more than $33,000 in donations and grant monies to renovate the wooden structure. On Sept. 12 they were planning a dedication ceremony which would have included the unveiling of a Michigan Historical Marker, approved by the Michigan Historical Commission. A special alumni baseball game was to follow.

"It stood there for 73 years," Alumni Secretary Marilyn Swihart said.

"We came so close. We had a really nice ceremony planned."

Swihart spent the morning making dozens of phone calls to those who were involved in the project and planned to attend the ceremony, including members of the Grettenberger family.

"They just found it unbelievable," Swihart said.

The structure was insured but likely cannot be rebuilt due to current building codes, the schools' Maintenance and Grounds Director Deby Smith said.

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"It's devastating," she said.

Castle Creek
03 - 22 - 19
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