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James Center project recommended for state funding

The dream of an expanded James Center for the Performing Arts with a concert hall is becoming clearer for supporters.

The James Center project - organized by the Sequim City Band and 12 peninsula music and civic groups - is being recommended for a $150,000 grant by Building for the Arts.

Building for the Arts was created in 1991 by the ArtsFund and the Boeing Company. The organization uses state capital construction funds to support arts and cultural projects. The funding package equals $12 million and will be divided among 22 projects around the state. No project is to receive more than 20 percent of the cost of the entire project.

The James Center for the Performing Arts is one of the projects being recommended for state funding. The Washington state Legislature has embraced the Building for the Arts package for 18 years as the most expedient way to fund cultural projects that enhance the state's economy.

Projects for Building for the Arts funding are selected by a citizens advisory committee of volunteers from the public and private sectors with expertise in administering or advocating for arts organizations.

The concert performance hall will provide a venue for the 30-plus musical groups on the North Olympic Peninsula, performing artists from around the world, youth summer camps, lectures, conferences and festivals. Such activities will bring additional people to the peninsula to live and visit, adding to the overall economy of the area, according to supporters.

The Sequim City Band and its partners have raised 40 percent of the cost of construction. The James Center group will build the addition to the current facility using nonprofit dollars and give the facility to the city of Sequim to maintain and operate. The addition could be ready for musicians by April 2010 if the city approves and a campaign to raise the remaining $2 million of the estimated $5 million cost is successful.

The proposed concert hall would add 12,000 square feet to the James Center, including a 7,800-square-foot performance hall, 1,000-square-foot backstage area, 1,040 square feet of patron and performer restrooms and 900 square feet of expanded rehearsal space. It would seat 530-550 people and have a stage capacity of 80 to 100 performers - enough for a 60-piece band or 80-piece orchestra - with lighting, sound and multimedia systems.

About 200 parking spaces would be available along the road to the James Center as well as in the adjacent field that would be left as grass in keeping with the park setting.

According to Patsy Mattingley, Sequim City Band president, organizers want to break ground in April 2009 and finish by April 2010. The concert hall would be built and then turned over to the city for operations and maintenance and if it's operated properly, the venue could make money for the city, she said.

The Sequim City Band has a 25-year lease with the city to use the rehearsal hall and stage at no cost.

"Overtures" the third Wednesday of each month and the following Saturday provide residents and groups with information on the project. Each overture consists of a tour of the existing facility, a brief talk about the expansion project and a time for questions. The public is invited to attend. The next two overtures are at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24. Reservations are encouraged.

For more information or to RSVP, call Mattingley at 683-8226.

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