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Convention Center upgrade still in works
Nearly 2 1/2 years after announcing an effort to revitalize the Guy Cole Convention Center in Carrie Blake Park, volunteers say they still are pushing forward.
Pat Johansen, volunteer project coordinator, and Sequim City Councilor Ken Hays host the first community meeting about the project at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 26, in the building off of North Blake Avenue.
“Our original plan was to reach out to the community, raise every dime we could and fundraise,” Johansen said. “The city is not really in a strong position to do it, so we wanted to give the community the opportunity to build it over.”
Her hope is that at the meeting, residents will have ideas that could help with costs and/or its usage.
“We want everybody to be there,” she said. “We want to talk about the fee structure so we can set up something that makes sense to the community.”
Originally, Hays and Johansen proposed focusing the venue on eating local foods and culinary-based programs while helping to make Sequim an agritourism and eco-tourism culinary destination.
Johansen said that goal is now secondary to renovating the facility but she finds the idea could help make Sequim a great winter season destination.
Since first announcing their proposal, discussions with community groups have stopped for various reasons.
Johansen said the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was looking for a meeting space after renovating the 7 Cedars Casino but decided to move meetings to The Cedars at Dungeness.
The Sequim City Band abandoned a project that could have turned the center into a multi-use community center and concert hall. Estimated costs were at about $1 million.
Johansen said she thinks Sequim’s tastes continue to mature and refurbishing the center gives the city another base of some kind.
“Frankly, there aren’t many facilities designed to accommodate many high quality events even in Port Angeles,” she said. “It just seemed to me that there is a need and so many opportunities to encourage our nonprofits and the idea of first class meeting space. We could fail, but I don’t think we will.”
Origins and next steps
The Sequim Valley Lions Club built the Guy Cole Convention Center in 1982 and it still is used three to five times a month but city staff said the facility remains in bad shape and rentals don’t make up the maintenance costs.
Recent discussions about revitalizing the center come at a new time, Johansen said, when the city is considering a reconfiguration to the entrance to Carrie Blake Park around the skate park, making it safer for children crossing between playgrounds while enhancing parking and accessibility.
She’s discussing partnering with students in the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center as soon as the beginning of the next school year.
Riley Stites, work site coordinator and applied math and building trades instructor for the skills center, said the project would be a good fit for his students.
“We’re finishing up our last day (on Tuesday, June 17) in the last room at the old high school (current administration building), so we’re in need of a project,” Stites said.
The last time Stites said he was in the convention center was 10 years ago when his daughter was a Sequim Irrigation Festival queen, but he did peek in the windows and said it’s in need of a tune up.
If his students were to take on the project, some of their duties could include demolition, framing, dry wall and painting.
Stites said they work three periods, five days a week for 2 hours and 45 minutes a day.
Students can earn up to 14 college credits a year in technical preparation if they earn a B or higher in the class while working toward their high school diplomas, he said.
They also learn applied math that deals with the building trade itself.
“I would really like to see it go,” Stites said of the project.
Along with Hays, an architect, doing pro-bono work designing the interior and exterior of the building, Johansen hopes to bring on board other builders and local service agencies.
“The building was built with community work teams and I hope groups like the Lions will become involved again,” she said. “We recognize the role they played the first time around and want to memorialize the work of the Lions in a plaque or something in the new Guy Cole.”
Renaming the center is likely to happen, Johansen said, and she’s spoken to Guy Cole’s son who understands that so long as they recognize the original builders.
“Our goal is to break ground in the fall,” Johansen said.
For more information, contact Pat Johansen at 582-3737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.