Completed Projects

1)  Youth on Main Street $5,000 – COMPLETED  Fall of 2015

Description:  A group of High School students formed a committee to come up with ideas to aid in improving our downtown.  One idea was to have banners made to be hung on the north side of the SanSpa Warehouse building located to the south of the Olson Cultural Event Center.  The intention of these banners is not only to improve the appearance of the area, but to also improve the acoustics of the Olson Cultural Event Center.  LABF approved the request for funds.


2) Royal III Theatre $250,000 – COMPLETED Fall of 2016

Description:  The Royal III Theater has operated in the City of Le Mars since the early 1900’s and has brought immeasurable entertainment and quality of life to the citizens of Le Mars and surrounding areas since that time.  The theater was recently renovated and updated to meet current industry standards; however, due to a shortfall in funds and inevitable closure, the decision was made to have the City purchase the building and assets.  The City of Le Mars acquired the building and assets April 1, 2015.  Operations are currently run by Main Street Theater.  If funded by LABF, the City of Le Mars will not have to allocate tax dollars to this project.  LABF approved the request for funds.

3)  Le Mars Postal Playhouse $100,000 – COMPLETED June 2018

Description:  The Postal Playhouse is owned by the City of Le Mars and utilized by Le Mars Community Theatre as a facility for the performing arts.  The Community Theatre stages four productions each year.  Annual memberships can be purchased by anyone who would like to attend.  We also offer a single ticket price option of $15.  While many theatres in the area charge more, our philosophy has been to keep our prices low so that anyone can easily attend.  The project would be to construct an addition (600 SF) onto the north face of the existing building for behind the stage activities and better interior access to the basement. 


Upon receipt of the Gilchrist $100,000 Grant monies, LABF engaged with the City of Le Mars to commence completion of design and execution of contracts as planned.  The 14 by 40 foot addition was constructed on the rear of the current building that the Le Mars Community Theatre’s Postal Playhouse calls home. With the addition of this new space the Postal Playhouse will be able to enhance their performance and work space for building sets, more backstage capabilities and storage space.  HVAC and electrical work along with insulation and interior finish work is complete.  The application of stucco on the exterior finish has now been completed and painted.  Ramp has been installed on the east side.  (The doors on the north side are for trucks to back up and deliver/off load.

Le Mars’ Postal Playhouse makeover well underway

Monday, December 18, 2017

By Beverly Van Buskirk, Lifestyles editor

LE MARS — Off with the old, on with the new.

That’s what’s happening at the Postal Playhouse in Le Mars.

A 14-by-40 foot addition is being constructed at the rear of the building.

The Le Mars Community Theatre’s Postal Playhouse was originally the Le Mars Post Office.

The group moved into the city-owned building in 1977 and has made renovations to accommodate their needs.

“When the building was a post office, that was actually a loading dock,” Danna Schuster, Le Mars Community Theatre board president, said. “Over time, they enclosed it.”

The theatre group used the small space for storage and even dressing rooms every once in a while.

Schuster said the group had been considering doing something with that area for some time, acknowledging a need for space.

“We’ve always run into storage issues, costuming and dressing rooms. The building was not built as a theatre. We have made do over the years and have done a fantastic job with the space we have,” Schuster said. “We just decided it was time for a little more room.”

Since it is a city-owned building, theatre board members let City Administrator Scott Langel know of their desire for an addition.

“He was completely on board with it. The city has been really good to us, helping in any way they can,” Schuster said.

She said Langel suggested they go to the Le Mars Community Betterment Foundation as he thought the project would fit nicely with that.

In turn, LCBF chairman Mike Donlin got in touch with the Gilchrist Foundation in Sioux City.

“Mike applied for this particular grant and Gilchrist funded it at $100,000,” Schuster said. They received word of the award in late July.

At that time the scope of the project was estimated at $130,000.

“The Le Mars Community Theatre will put in $15,000 toward the project,” Schuster said.

In August, the Le Mars City Council approved a $15,000 city match to the LCT’s commitment.

“The Gilchrist grant is a great deal for us because we’re enhancing our performance and work space. But it’s also good for the city because they own the building and enhancing the building without using a bunch of tax dollars to do it,” Schuster said.

The theatre group also sought the input of the Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission for ideas on the exterior of the addition. The building was constructed in 1914 and the group knew it could not match the brick exterior.

“We got great input from Rich Ziettlow, Linda Mayrose and Iris Hemmingson,” Schuster said.

Work on demolition of the loading dock area started in September.

Construction manager is Jeremy Sitzmann.

As of last week, the addition was enclosed and work was being done on the HVAC system.

According to Assistant Administrator Jason Vacura, the exterior work will be completed in the spring, as the stucco exterior work needs to be done in warm weather.

“We think we can use the interior by January or February,” Schuster said.

The new space will allow a larger workspace for building sets, more backstage capabilities, and storage space.

“We always struggle with where we can put the flats when not using them. And the platforms we use are extremely heavy. It will be wonderful for the men in the theatre to not have to transport those from the garage to the theatre building,” Schuster said.

Efficient and convenient. Working smarter and being safer. Those are things Schuster says are important for all the theatre volunteers.

Postal Playhouse project gets green light to move forward

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

By Thomas Schreiber, news reporter

LE MARS — The Postal Playhouse North Addition project is nearly ready to get underway.

The Le Mars City Council unanimously approved a $15,000 city match to the $15,000 the Le Mars Community Theatre had previously raised.

A $100,000 grant from the Gilchrist Foundation of Sioux City will also go towards the project, which will significantly increase flexibility in staging productions, technical abilities and theatre storage space.

The project will see the deteriorated entry vestibule on the building’s north side be torn down, and a 20 x 40 foot north addition added in its place.

Before the vote, Le Mars City Administrator Scott Langel explained why the city match was necessary.

“At this juncture, my estimate is demolition, $6,000, pure construction of the shell, $55,000, finishes outside and inside plus HVAC and electrical, $40,000,” Langel said. “With contingencies, I think the estimate grows to $130,000 total.”

Langel expanded city funding part of the project.

“The Iowa legislature has given cities the authority to spend somewhere between $135,000 and $140,000 in vertical infrastructure without going through a formal bid opening process,” Langel said. “However, I do feel this meeting does qualify for notice to you (the council) and to the public that we’re doing the project and then we would simply get quotations and not formal bids.”

Le Mars Mayor Dick Kirchoff said with funding secured from the foundation, the project should be started as soon as possible.

“Through the Gilchrist Foundation, one of the recommendations is it should be done by the end of the year,” Kirchoff said.

Langel added Jeremy Sitzmann will serve as the project’s construction manager.

Councilman Clark Goodchild made the motion approving the project not to exceed $130,000, and also had words of praise for the theatre.

“I think that organization does a phenomenal job,” Goodchild said.

Postal Playhouse receives $100,000 grant

Friday, August 4, 2017

By Thomas Schreiber, news reporter

(Sentinel Photo by Kim Fickett) At left, the Postal Playhouse North Addition project will soon be underway, thanks to an $100,000 grant from The Gilchrist Foundation of Sioux City. The addition will see the theatre’s backstage and production area substantially expand.

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LE MARS — A proposed project at the Postal Playhouse is one step closer to reality, thanks to a source outside Plymouth County.

The Le Mars Community Theatre has received a $100,000 grant from the The Gilchrist Foundation of Sioux City, for the theatre’s proposed North Addition project.

“In the early spring, Scott Langel (Le Mars city administrator) applied to the LABF (Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation) on our behalf for the $100,000 we were looking for to add the addition to the theatre,” Community Theatre Board President Danna Schuster said. “A lot of the funds the LABF had to work with at that time had already been designated to other projects, so they had to table our request.”

The Gilchrist Foundation, which provides incentives and funds to pre-selected nonprofit organizations in the arts, wildlife and conservation, and public broadcasting, got wind of the proposed addition, and encouraged the LABF to apply for a grant through the foundation.

LABF Board President Mike Donlin said the group received word last week of the funding.

“We’re just so very grateful that we could find this kind of fit, one foundation helping another. We certainly mean to pay it forward and do the same kind of thing,” Donlin said.

The $100,000 will go towards the North Addition project, which Schuster explained in detail.

“We are going to build about 14 feet out and 40 feet wide from the back end of the building,” Schuster said. “Basically it’s going to allow us some more flexibility in staging productions, better technical abilities and more storage. When that building was built 100 years ago as a post office, the things we’re trying to do now weren’t thought of at that time.”

“It’s going to give us a lot more flexibility and capability as far as what productions we can stage. If anybody has ever been in our backstage area they know it’s pretty tight,” she said. “Possibly we’ll be able to have larger casts and do some shows that weren’t in our realm before. Anytime you can see a show that has a better technical scene, you always enjoy that a little bit more.”

Schuster emphasized support from The Gilchrist Foundation benefits not only the theatre, but the community at large.

“Over the years at the theatre, we’ve always tried to do things within the scope of what we are able to generate and do by ourselves, and of course this project was going to be bigger than that,” she said. “We’ve always been thrilled to do what we wanted to do without having to ask the community or our supporters for a lot of extra funding.”

Now that funding has been secured, the hope is for work to begin later this month or early September.

“We have our ducks in a row at the theater. We have everything moved out that we need and we’re ready to roll as soon as somebody calls,” Schuster said.

The outpouring of community and financial support isn’t lost on those involved with the theater.

“”It makes us feel like what we’re doing is important and maybe as important to other people as it is to us,” Schuster concluded.

3) Olson Cultural Event Center

Amount approved: $250,000

- Remove Parking Lot – Maintain Brick-Paved Walks

- Add Picnic Areas, Covered Pergolas, Shade Features

- Add Stadium Seating with Raised Flower Beds

- Enhance Landscaping with Grass, Trees, Flowers and Shrubs

- Upgrade Stage Sound System, Enhance Ambiance, Acoustics

- Create Permanent Stage Screen

- Enhance Outdoor Lighting

- Place Banners on Building – South End on 1st Street

- Install Sprinkler System

- Remove/Replace Parking Lot behind Postal Playhouse

- Complete Street Scape Project on 1st Avenue

Work begins on Olson Cultural Event Center

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

By Beverly Van Buskirk, Lifestyles editor


LE MARS — Work is being done on a Community Betterment Project II in downtown Le Mars.

The Olson Cultural Event Center is being transformed from cement to green space and an inviting place to hold events.

Interim City Administrator Jason Vacura said the center was underutilized.


(Photo Contributed) A glimpse from the northeast corner at what the renovated Olson Cultural Event Center will look like upon completion. The project was among several that were a part of phase 2 of the Community Betterment Projects.

“We had discussion on how do we create a more inviting, open space. It can still be used for what it was intended, a centralized downtown location to hold events. We can still do that with grass,” Vacura said.

He pointed out the trend in bigger cities is to try to create an open space where people can gather.

“We’re trying to create a more park-like feel,” he said.

Already the cement has been taken out and a former driveway now has a curb.

Brick pavers were also removed last week.

“All the pavers are leaving. Over time, it’s happening all over with pavers, they become uneven and slick. It was either tear them all out and replace them and then it would be still be a maintenance issue,” Vacura said. “We can create the same effect with colored concrete.”

The colored cement work was done last Saturday.

This week, stadium seating is expected to be installed, also featuring partial colored cement. That will be on the south side of the event center on either side of the arch.

The center area will be grass, with walkways going both north/south and east/west.

The stage will stay in as it is, according to Vacura.

“Our overall intent plan is to maybe update some audio and possibly speakers toward the back of the archway and a PA system of some sort that can be pulled out when needed,” he said.

There will also be a lot of landscaping and irrigation done.

Vacura indicated in the southwest corner there will be an area specifically designated for donors to the CBP2 project.

“That’s where the engraved pavers will go. So if you donated to the project, you were given a paver, and they will go in that area,” Vacura explained.

Pergolas and picnic tables were installed along the perimeter of the event center earlier this summer.

Vacura said there are also plans for raised flowerbeds.

While some elements may have changed slightly, the center will look very similar to the architect’s renderings which were published in the Le Mars Community Betterment Foundation’s brochure which featured 10 projects to be funded with CBP dollars.

The estimate for the Olson Cultural Event Center was $250,000.

“I’m going to be under that,” Vacura said.

The Olson Cultural Event Center was dedicated on June 21, 2003. The center is named in honor of the late Paul and Patty Olson, who owned KLEM Radio in Le Mars for many years, and the many community activities and projects Paul, known as “Ole Olson,” was involved in over the years. At that time, the event center was a part of the Downtown StreetScape program.

Event Center makes for second completed CBP2 project

Friday, June 7, 2019

By Kim Fickett, Editor

(Sentinel Photos by Kim Fickett) The Olson Cultural Event Center, 33 First Ave. N.E., is the second of the Community Betterment Projects — Phase 2 to be completed. The renovation of the downtown space was completed on June 4 and city officials are hoping the area will now bring a “town-square” feel to Le Mars.


LE MARS — Residents and visitors of Le Mars are now able to enjoy an updated green space in downtown thanks to Community Betterment Project funds and an Enhance Iowa CAT Grant.

The renovation of the Olson Cultural Event Center, 33 First St. N.E., was completed on June 4.

It was in early 2016, when the facility was named one of 10 projects the Le Mars Betterment Foundation (LABF) identified as one to invest in to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the greater Le Mars area.


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“The Olson Cultural Event Center was originally constructed to create a ‘town-square’ like atmosphere to host a variety of events and programs,” said Jason Vacura, city administrator. “However, the facility has been underutilized over the years.

“Improvements have been made in an effort to steer the ‘town-square’ like atmosphere into a park like setting, adding an aesthetic appeal. I believe the end product satisfies the concept envisioned many years ago when this site was chosen as a CBP2 project,” Vacura added.

The project, which began in late fall of 2018, involved removal of concrete and the replacement of it with a grassy area, as well as walkways going north/south and east/west, the addition of concrete stadium seating, raised flower beds and enhanced landscaping, picnic areas with pergolas, a sprinkler system, banners on the building to the south, and modification of the center’s electrical system.

Estimated cost of the project was $295,000, however Vacura said to date the project has cost $150,200.

“There are a handful of invoices to come in yet but the total cost will come in well under the $295,000 estimated budget,” he noted.

The expenditure was divided with 84 percent coming from the LABF and 16 percent from the Enhance Iowa CAT Grant.

The event center is the second of the CBP2 projects to be completed to date. The first was the refurbishment of the Willow Creek Campground facilities and clubhouse renovation.

“It is great to get these projects completed so the community, as well as those that donated to this cause can see the vision come to reality,” Vacura said. “These projects could not be accomplished without the Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation and all those that have given to the foundation. There are still more projects to do, so the opportunity to still give is still there.”

The remaining projects include: the skateboard park, dog park, recreation trail north and south extension, PlyWood Trail, YMCA improvements, BMX track, and Royal III Theatre.

If anyone is interested in supporting the remaining projects, they can contact the Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation at 712-546-8821.

Share your thoughts!


Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation
50 Central Ave SE

Le Mars, IA 51031
Ph: 712-546-8821


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