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New site sought for concert hall

The proposed James Center concert hall is on the move after the state Department of Ecology last month prohibited building it in the water reuse park.

Now supporters of the venue are researching and negotiating for property to build it somewhere else, possibly in the center of town.

"It's been a real learning experience the last two years. We've learned about feasibility studies and business plans and applying for grants," said Sequim City Band president Patsy Mattingly.

"And here we are two years later with no concert hall. But we're still here," she said.

Mattingly spoke to a full house Friday night at SunLand Golf & Country Club in what was dubbed a "reprise" for the now two-year-old campaign to build the hall.

She said that in January the state Department of Ecology declared that the concert hall didn't fit the agency's vision for the water reuse park.

Then in July, Ecology officials said no new nonpermeable surfaces would be built in the water reuse park.

Rhodefer Road also can't be paved unless a bridge is built across Bell Creek, which Ecology has labeled a bull trout-bearing stream, Mattingly said.

"The price went up so high, it's not worth it. So now there's a whole other learning curve because we're

going out on our own," Mattingly said.

The group has one site in mind in the center of town but is keeping its options open, she said.

The property they are considering has infrastructure, so they still are thinking the original $6 million estimate might be accurate but won't know until they run the numbers, Mattingly said.

If they can reach an agreement, they might be better off since the new site would provide more flexibility for naming the building after a donor and won't look like a barn," she said.

The relocated hall will need some additional square footage for storage and other things since they won't have the James Center next door for those things, she said.

The original proposal was to 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 rest rooms 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.

"We're seeking ideas, comments, questions. We're talking about owning our own property so we'll probably have to create our own nonprofit to run it," Mattingly said.

They want to bring quite a few groups into a performing arts partnership but want to keep the building as a concert hall, she said.

"We don't want it to be too multiuse. We really don't want it to be a theater.

"I still believe a concert hall will bring the focal point we need for the area. It will be a central place where people can learn about performances," Mattingly said.

The Sequim City Band, Olympic Peninsula Men's Chorus, Stardust Big Band and Olympic Express Big Band use the current rehearsal hall weekly.

The Sequim City Band leased park land during construction of the James Center, which was built in 2004 with $600,000 in private funding, then donated to the city to

operate and maintain.

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

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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