There’s not a bad seat among the 415 available for bingo nights at the new American Legion and VFW building.

Community invited to tour new American Legion/VFW hall during reception Sunday

A reception to acquaint the community with the new American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Building is Sunday – but the bingo community is already acquainted with it.

There were 148 players last week, which Legion Commander Don Wooten says is better than average but not as good as a “good night” when the first player to black out a card wins $1,199.

They start selling bingo papers at 5:30 p.m. every Saturday night. Though players start arriving two hours before to reserve their spot and socialize.

They can also eat supper, choosing from hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork and even chicken fried steak served on Texas toast with gravy.

They start calling bingo at 6:30 p.m.

Bingo-night profits are what allowed the Legion members to move from a downtown building to their first metal building in 1991. Wooten said they were able to burn the mortgage within two years. 

American Legion Commander Don Wooten is especially proud of the American flag made of tiles honoring veterans.

The kitchen is ready to serve bingo players and special dinners.

The Webb City R-7 School District purchased the former veterans hall at 1000 N. Main St. Part of the deal was the land for this brand-new building at 900 N. Webb St.

Wooten said it won’t take two years to burn the mortgage on the new building. “It’s already paid for.”

Likely the players most appreciative of the new building are those who don’t smoke. In the old building, they could play in a smokeless room but couldn’t see the caller. There’s now a bank of windows giving them a clear view of the main room.

“I like to see everybody” from the caller’s booth, said Wooten. At capacity, “everybody” would be filling 415 seats.

Although the new building is 3,000 square feet smaller than the old building, the space being used is about the same. There was a garage on the north end of the old building that wasn’t used much.

Until the pavement was installed last week, there was some worry that the parking lot wouldn’t be big enough. 

But Wooten said they wound up getting 133 parking spaces, along with an overflow lot. 

The parking situation is better than it was at the old building’s parking lot because it had to be shared with the baseball team’s fans on some nights.

At the front door below the awning is a drop box for American flags that need to be retired. It’s not, as you might think, an old post office box. It’s new.

As you enter the building, there is the office shared by Wooten, VFW Commander Joe Wilson and Adjutant Richard Copeland. Jim Dawson has spent a lot of time there because he was the building consultant.

The entry hall leads to the bingo room for the non-smokers and the cavernous main bingo room. 

In back of the smokeless bingo room is a large kitchen stocked with new equipment, along with a spacious food-storage room.

Besides serving food on bingo nights, the organizations use the kitchen to provide a free Veterans Breakfast around Veterans Day and serve a Thanksgiving dinner that’s free to everyone in the school district. Wooten said they also want to get back to serving the JROTC banquet in the spring. They’ve missed it the past two years because of the pandemic and the transition between buildings.

Wooten said they’ll test his theory this fall on whether they can cook 16 turkeys at once with their new equipment.

“In the nine years I’ve been here,” Wooten said he has only missed three Saturday nights, not including the three times they didn’t have bingo while moving to the new building.

On the end opposite the bingo rooms are two large meeting rooms for the Legion and VFW, and the Legion Auxiliary, Bobbie Wooten, Don’s wife, leads the auxiliary.

Of course, they hope the new building will help attract new members.

It’s a “beautiful” building, says Don Wooten. “We’re proud of it, I’ll tell you.”

The community reception on Sunday, July 24, is from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be tours, and refreshments will be served.

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