City hesitant to fund events center capital campaign
August 14, 2014
Dreams of adding a performing arts and events center to the existing Glenwood Springs Community Center are still just that, given the hefty $24 million cost estimate and what would still be an $8 million funding gap under a new financial feasibility plan.
City Council last week adopted the findings of a consultants’ financial planning and fund-raising feasibility report, which suggested that a public/private partnership of some sort could be successful in completing the project.
To get there, though, would take a mix of private donations and voter approval to extend an existing dedicated city sales tax that could generate half the funds needed to finance the project, the report concluded.
Council balked, however, at a recommendation that the city start the process immediately by providing $660,000 in up-front funding to launch a three- to five-year capital campaign with a goal of raising approximately $4 million in private donations.
The report, prepared by Jeffrey Byrne & Associates, suggests that the capital campaign would have to start and be substantially complete before going to voters for approval to extend the city’s 0.01 percent acquisition and improvements (A&I) tax.
The tax, which was originally approved to fund the construction of the Community Center and other public facilities, is set to expire at the end of 2018.
“We still have a huge funding gap,” Councilman Matt Steckler observed. “That ($8 million) is a huge hole, so I don’t know how we can accept a recommendation to move forward.”
Conceptual plans developed by a special city task force in 2011 and 2012 proposed that a performing arts center, including a stage for theater and other more intimate performances, a flexible seating area, box office and lobby area, be built onto the east side of the Community Center.
In order to accommodate larger events, the task force proposed fully enclosing the existing open-air, covered ice rink, adjoining it to the performing arts facility, and using it for conventions, expos and larger concert events in addition to having a year-round ice rink with more seating.
The financial feasibility study involved meetings with the various user groups and some initial outreach to identify private donors, including potential lead sponsors.
“While there is support for a performing arts center and an enclosed ice rink, and a widespread recognized need for an events center, there are widely and varying views by those interviewed around how to accomplish the project,” the report concluded. “Potential gifts were identified, but no lead gifts.”
Questions around the ongoing costs to operate and maintain such a facility were also raised, according to the report.
While supporters see it as a solution to meeting a need for performing arts and conference space, and improved facilities for hockey and other ice sports that could lead to a successful fund-raising campaign, others still question whether the project is feasible and even whether the Community Center is the best location.
Performing arts center supporters have suggested other locations, including somewhere in the river confluence area west of downtown when and if redevelopment occurs there.
Other recommendations in the report included:
• Reconfiguring the task force to “reflect a broader constituency that will be impacted by the project,” including representatives from Garfield County and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s “Community on the Move” committee, which could be asked to campaign for extension of the sales tax.
• Developing a communication and marketing plan and public relations effort that would discuss the potential benefits of a performing arts and events center.
Council voted unanimously to accept the report, without the financial commitment at this time.
“I think we can leave the door open for that in the future,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi, who has been Council’s representative on the performing arts center task force, said.