Patsy Mattingley’s idea for renovating Guy Cole Convention Center at Carrie Blake Park could get the proverbial ball rolling on forming a plan for its future. Mattingley, a Sequim parks advisory board member, developed an idea to revitalize the convention center into a multi-use community center that includes fixing the acoustics, making cosmetic upgrades inside and out, remodeling the storage area, expanding the stage and sound system, and improving the ventilation and fire systems. “The concept is still changing and has a long road to approval before we get to a possible final design,” Mattingley said.
She said Sequim City Councilors generally seemed in favor of the idea when she shared the first sketch at a joint parks board/ councilors meeting on Feb. 8. “We’re talking about a facelift to everything except for the kitchen,” Mattingley said. If her plan was to go through, Sequim City Band and other non-profits would pay for renovations and the city would pay for maintenance, operations, changes to the commercial kitchen and parking modifications. As an long-time player of the Sequim City Band, Mattingley advocated for an indoor concert hall adjacent to the James Center for the Performing Arts.
However, red flags from the Department of Ecology prevented the project from going forward. Mattingley said the convention center concept is a pale image of the concert hall, but she just wants more places for people to play. The band proposes to pay for renovations and the city would lease the facility to the band for a minimal fee over a period of time. The band would then gift the convention center back to the city in exchange for an agreed on number of uses over a number of years. The City band is five years into a 20 years lease with a possible 10 year extension on the James Center.
When working on he abandoned conceptual concert hall, a lot of groups and citizens embraced the band to help with about $100,000 available towards this project. To raise funds for any possible renovations, the band would need $200,000-$250,0000, Mattingley said.
Allan Goff, chair of the citizens park advisory board, said his group blessed Mattingley’s idea, and they are waiting on direction from city council. “Guy Cole needs some TLC,” Goff said. “It’s been on the backburner for so many years, and we’ve been given a challenge to come up with some ideas about 10 months ago. Patsy has done a great job and I think this is the best use.” Mattingley said a renovated convention center could host many more events than it is now, such as productions, weddings, meetings, conferences, bazaars, games and more. She feels the first thing that would need fixing is the acoustics.
“City council used to have work sessions in there but if soda machine comes on you can’t hear the other person talking,” Mattingley said. Jeff Edwards, parks manager, said the convention center is underused now. “Anything we do would be better than nothing,” Edwards said. Construction could be a few years, Edwards said, but the process to determine the convention center’s use could be determined by the end of the year. “Somebody might come in next week with a plan that council likes more,” Edwards said.
City Manager Steve Burkett said a key part of the convention center’s future is the citizen’s survey going out sometime in April.
It will ask some citizens specifically if Sequim needs more parks and recreation programs and what is the best use for the convention center.
Burkett said city council will discuss Mattingley’s concept at their meeting on March 14.
If council approves investigating the direction of the concept, Burkett said they’ll request more distinct cost estimates of the renovations.
Mattingley said if council approves the preliminary concept, then the city band will invest in a feasibility study.
Parks and Rec possibilities
Anything that happens with the convention center could go hand-in-hand with what council decides on the possibility of a parks and recreation department and/or district.
Goff, a former parks and recreation director, said the parks advisory board is steering away from the district concept for now and considering a department because of costs.
“Let’s focus on the needs, and when you melt down all the needs, the department fulfills all the immediate needs,” Goff said.
“The survey will give us a good barometer. We think we know, from the council and work session. We’ve been mulling over this for 11 months.”
Edwards said developing a parks department would mean more manpower.
“Right now we’re a maintenance department. For us to do recreation, we have to have manpower,” Edwards said.
“I’d love to see it happen because I feel we are under-utilizing the fields we have now.”
Currently, the city does not schedule groups for field usage and leaves it to interest groups like the Senior Softball League and Sequim Little League organize field usage.
A parks department could coordinate usage and potentially create more opportunities with tournaments and events. Edwards said he receives calls from around Washington wanting to know if the city was scheduling any tournaments.
Right now, Sequim’s parks have one full-time maintenance and one seasonal full-time employee. Edwards said for a department to begin, it would need one director and assistant and about $125,000 for salaries and benefits.
Burkett said whatever the city council decides upon doing with the convention center, they’d keep in mind either a department and district direction.