From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 16 - April 19, 2007
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Conference, arts center proposed

by Julia Stuble

A group of citizens and members of the Fine Arts council presented the results of a preliminary study for a proposed Pinedale Community Conference and Arts Center at the Sublette County Commissioners meeting on April 13. John Walters, Jo Crandall, Lynn Thomas and Charmain McCellen brought along a feasibility study for the center to show the commissioners, who had funded this preliminary analysis. “This is something that fills a need in the community that’s not being taken care of at this point,” Crandall told the commissioners of the dual use project. Conceptions for the center at this point are of a two-winged building comprised of a conference center and an arts center.

The main instigator of this project was a simple observation by Crandall, Walters and others, she said. Many of the organizations and businesses in the county are competing for meeting space that may not even meet their needs. Noting that the Pinedale library sees a “huge amount of use” and Rendezvous Pointe can also accommodate, the group pointed out that larger, and more meeting space is needed. A survey sent out to government agencies, organizations and businesses revealed that these groups felt the same way.

Charles Stout told the commissioners it is not simply meetings, like the packed BLM hearings, that are being limited by space, it’s fundraisers as well. “We were forced to cut off ticket sales two weeks before because we reached the absolute capacity of Rendezvous Pointe,” Stout said of a recent Ducks Unlimited fundraiser.

Crandall explained that the center would not be limited to official meetings, but could also be reserved for weddings, funerals, and reunions as well as expos and workshops. When responses came back from the survey, Crandall found the Art Center was given “a lot more support than anticipated.” This wing could have classrooms for art education, gallery space, and studios for painting, ceramics, metal work and dance. “It was surprising to us how many various uses people were searching for,” Crandall said.

The group’s study, which the commissioners had allocated $30,000, looked at basics for the proposal, and achieved the following: verified community need, determined local support and uses, examined comparable facilities, addressed location, sources of funding and costs. The site, the study came back, needed to be at least 3-5 acres in size, to allow for a two-winged building, possible auditorium, and future expansion. After examining comparable facilities, Crandall told the commissioners the center could eventually be a source of economic revenue.

In an interview, she specified she feels “very strongly” that the center could bring money into the community from non-local meetings, conferences and expos, but the “motel situation has to level out so there are rooms.”

She pointed to Jackson Hole, where many conventions are held, and are supported by the tourist infrastructure. Sublette County, she argues, also has this infrastructure, and offers a cheaper experience for state-wide or national conferences. However, the commissioners were skeptical of being asked for money from county coffers, when the center may benefit the town more.

“I’d like to see the town take the lead on this,” John Linn told the group. Bill Cramer thought this was a “great idea” but warned the assembled committee, “As you can imagine, we’re going to be getting lots of requests for lots of projects. I’m sure this is going to be a big project.” Cramer wondered about the possibility of establishing a 1 percent capital facilities tax to pay for the center. He said the commission needed “to get a sense from the voters if this is something they want.”

“I think this is a worthwhile community project. It’s not specifically a county project,” Joel Bousman said, agreeing with Linn. “The biggest legitimate thing you can talk about this is the need to maintain the economic diversity of Sublette County,” Bousman noted, adding this was “over the need to provide an arts studio.”

Mary Lynn Worl defended the art wing, noting, “I greatly appreciate art. I would really enjoy having a place to go and see exhibits.” “We have to look at the economy but also we need to not set aside the pure cultural aspect of something like this,” she said. On Tuesday, Crandall said she will get everyone who participated in the study back together to “get more information out to the general public.”

The next step for the committee will be to figure out a suitable site, specify ways to fund and manage the facility, and develop a more concrete plan, complete, hopefully, with preliminary drawings from an architect.

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