Patsy Mattingley’s idea for renovating the 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 s aid.
She said Sequim City councilors generally seemed in favor of the idea when she shared the first sketch at a joint parks board/city councilors meeting on Feb. 8.
“We’re talking about a face-lift to everything except for the kitchen,” Mattingley said.
If her plans go through, the Sequim City Band and other nonprofits would pay for renovations and the city would pay for maintenance, operations, changes to the commercial kitchen and parking modifications.
As a long-time player with the Sequim City Band, Mattingley advocated for an indoor concert hall adjacent to the James Center for the Performing Arts. However, concerns 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 then would give the convention center back to the city in exchange for an agreed-upon number of uses over a number of years.
The city band is five years into a 20-year lease with a possible 10-year extension on the James Center.
Allan Goff, chairman 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 back burner 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 does now, such as productions, weddings, meetings, conferences, bazaars, games and more. She feels the first thing that would need fixing is the acoustics.
“The City council used to have work sessions in there but if the soda machine comes on, you can’t hear the other person talking,” Mattingley said.
Parks manager Jeff Edwards said the convention center is under-used now.
“Anything we do would be better than nothing,” Edwards said.
Construction could be a few years away, 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 citizens survey going out sometime in April. The survey will ask if Sequim needs more parks and recreation programs, and what the best use is for the convention center.
Burkett said the city council will discuss Mattingley’s concept at its meeting on March 14. If the council approves investigating the concept, Burkett said they’ll request more distinct cost estimates of the renovations.
Mattingley said if the council approves the preliminary concept, then the city band will invest in a feasibility study.
Anything that happens with the convention center could go hand-in-hand with what the 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.”
City officials do not schedule groups for field usage, leaving it to interest groups such as the Sequim Senior Softball League to do so.
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 is scheduling any tournaments.
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 to do with the convention center, they’d keep in mind either a department and district direction.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.