"Big Blue" Owner says the Building's Old Elevators Led to the Decision to Close

The owner of the First Wichita building, known to many as "Big Blue", is talking about why the Wichita Falls landmark will close its doors on August 1.

Rodd Womble, owner of "Big Blue", says the decision to close down the building was purely business.

He says the cost to fix the building's old elevators is just too much.

"It has nothing to do anything with the tenants or me or financially with the building except for the elevators," Womble says.

He says about a month ago, the elevators started acting up.

He says over the last three weeks, his company has been trying to get them fixed and just this week they got an estimate as to how much it would cost to replace them.

Womble says the cost does not guarantee a permanent solution to the problem or that they would pass an inspection next month.

"I've been informed that they are not going to approve those elevators of course and they're not going to let me run them forever either," Womble says. "They're going to say you've got so much time to run them or we're shutting you down."

Also, he says, "I never saw this coming. I guess I had faith that those things would run forever because they've always gotten them to run so it was pretty much of a shock."

Womble says he would have loved to give tenants more time but he was told he had that amount of time to do it.

In addition, he says two of the three elevators are back in service but have to be manually operated by a man who will come and get tenants or visitors when he is called which is why he says he is meeting with tenants to find out what they will need to move out.

"Most of these people in here, I've grown up with," Womble says. "I was raised in this town. It's not a lot of fun for me and it's not fun for them. They're going through a tough time too. I think they are all finding some place. Very few are not. Most of them are, I think, in the Hamilton and City National building which is great because it is downtown."

A downtown Womble hopes will continue to grow in spite of the closure of one of its best known landmarks.

Womble hopes to have two men operating the building's elevators by July 1.

He also plans to run the air conditioning over the weekends.

On Saturday, July 13, 20 and 27, he says air conditioning will be on 8 - 5 p.m. and on Sunday, July 15, 21 and 28, the a/c will run from 8 - 2 p.m. which Womble says will hopefully make moving out a little more comfortable.

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