Carbondale art center still has a pulse

Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

The curtain hasn’t yet come down on Carbondale’s dream of a performing art center, and in fact, the darn thing might be inching back up.

That’s because Carbondale for the first time is asking residents if they want the town to build a performing art center. The question is one of dozens included in a recreation master plan survey the town sent to residents last week.

In the past, the town did not consider using its 0.5 percent recreation sales tax for art and performance facilities, said Carbondale Town Trustee Susie Darrow. With the performing art center question being put to residents, however, such a center could become part of the town’s recreation mix.

“I was surprised to see the recreation department put the performing art center on the survey,” Darrow said. “But what the heck. Let’s bring it up for discussion.”

The nonprofit Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities worked for several years to raise money for its own performing art center, but put those plans on hold in July when fund-raising efforts stalled.

The town’s eight-page survey, which residents must return by Monday, Nov. 24, lists 19 possible recreation projects, and asks respondents to rank them in order of importance. Those projects include a four-season ice rink, a year-round lap pool at the swimming pool, a recreation center, and 16 other uses for recreation sales tax funds.

Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel said his department considers arts and entertainment to be recreation, just like sports and other activities.

“Recreation is what people do in their free time,” Jackel said. “That can include concerts, theater and plays.”

Jackel said a performing art center could be incorporated into a recreation center through a dual-purpose gymnasium. Such a gym would have a stage at one end, and be constructed of acoustical materials to improve the sound.

Jackel said the town might even consider building a free-standing performing art center downtown. Darrow likes the idea of a downtown center as an amenity in its own right, and as a way to give the town an economic boost.

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“A nighttime performance facility would be a huge shot in the arm,” Darrow said. “People say the town rolls up at 7:30.”

Jackel and Darrow both say the town might consider partnering with the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities to run a performing art center.

“I don’t think either group could do it by themselves,” Darrow said.

Jackel said he and Mayor Michael Hassig have met with CCAH representatives to talk about a performing art center.

“Some people in town just don’t want the performing art center to go away and disappear,” Jackel said.

CCAH board member John Laatsch said his group is still “enthusiastic” about building a performing art center, and is interested in working with the town to get it up and running.

“If they want to partner with us, that would be great,” Laatsch said.

Whether to build a performing art center is part of the larger question of how the town plans to spend the estimated $430,000 per year it raises through its 0.5 percent recreation sales tax, which will expire in 2010 if voters don’t extend it.

The survey also asks whether residents would vote to extend the tax into perpetuity, and increase it 0.25 percent.

Jackel said the town trustees will decide early next year whether to put the sales tax extension questions to voters, plus a question on whether to issue bonds to pay for recreation amenities.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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