By Adriadne Aberin
Twenty years after being built, the John Knox Memorial Center at The Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum is being renovated and given a more updated look, including a new banquet hall.
The Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum was founded in 1968 and had been in operation for about 20 years when the banquet hall was added.
One of the reasons the hall was added was because the museum itself was active in many organizations and groups. The banquet center hosts a plethora of events, including weddings, local high school proms, business affairs and Baylor events.
Because the John Knox Memorial Center served as a venue for so many events, making the space more aesthetically pleasing and functional was a top priority for the city.
According to the Waco Chamber of Commerce, in 2007 Waco citizens approved a $63 million bond that helped fund the renovation of various facilities, including the downtown convention center and the John Knox Memorial Center.
Byron Johnson, the museum’s executive director, was also very active in obtaining funds for the new banquet hall.
A committee put together a list of improvements for the facility. The committee members – including caterers, people who rented the hall and museum staff – worked with architects to make as many improvements as possible while staying within budget.
The budget for the museum renovation was $2 million, according to the 2007 annual report from the City of Waco. The full cost of the renovations reached just over $1 million.
Christine Walker, representative for marketing, promotions, and development at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, said the catering kitchen was one of the major changes made to the facility since it was dark and dated.
Walker pointed out that a restaurant grade dishwasher was installed, and the size of the kitchen was increased, providing more space for food preparation.
“Now we have a large, double-sided refrigerator more suited to catering jobs for 200 plus guests,” Walker said.
Additional changes include the flooring, which was previously a Spanish tile floor.
“It had its charm, and it flowed with the museum. But as a dance floor, it wasn’t very practical,” Walker said.
The flooring was stripped down and replaced with new laminate flooring, which resembles hardwood, but requires less maintenance and is more stain-, scratch- and impact-resistant than standard hardwood.
Updated technology was also included in the renovations. The committee had a nook created for the bar, and the electric wiring was reworked so that it now lights up and serves as a centerpiece for the space.
The most apparent change made to the Knox banquet center was the addition of the large windows overlooking the Brazos River and displaying a view of Cameron Park.
“Before, the facility was simply a wood paneling with no windows, but now it’s light and airy and modern,” Walker said.
Walker said that on average, the Knox facility hosts about 160 events per year, but with the renovation, she hopes that that number will double.
The grand opening of the newly renovated John Knox Memorial Center will take place from 2-4 p.m. Jan. 27.
The facility is behind the Texas Ranger Museum at I-35 exit 335B. The Knox Center will also host Lone Ranger Fan Day on Jan. 29, which will include live radio shows and a re-enactment of “The Lone Ranger.”