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The City Journals

Will West Jordan (finally) get a theatre?

Jun 24, 2019 03:48PM ● By Erin Dixon

Travis Green addresses City Council, voicing his concerns about the delays and lack of communication about the Cultural Arts Center. (Erin Dixon/City Journals)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Dellane Jessop, director of the West Jordan City Band, is ending his volunteer career and is hopeful that West Jordan will finally see its own cultural arts center.

“I’ve tried for 23 years to get a Cultural Arts Center,” he said. “I’m retiring, and I hope that I’m still alive when we get a cultural arts building.” 

Ground was broken for an arts center in late 2017. Then nothing happens. 

See previous information on the Cultural Arts center here.

During the meeting in June, a workshop was held to discuss details for the Cultural Arts Center, hopefully moving plans forward. 

Councilmember Chris McConnehey explained the difficulties city officials have had fulfilling previous commitments. 

“2016 is when we really started in earnest trying to figure out ‘what can we do,’” he said. “We sat down with the art groups; we prioritized everything. [The builder] came back and said this is what we can get for you for $8.5 million. With the architect, we saw the price tag increase a little bit further. Pretty soon, we were at $11 million when we had originally said $8 million. And then we go out to bid the contractor came back and said ‘The number you guys got is an old number. Prices have gone up significantly, you’re looking $13 mill-ish.’” 

The $13 million price tag put the planned arts center out of reach.

Communication gap

Other community members voiced their frustrations, primarily with the lack of communication from the city to Arts council.

“We watched the site sit dormant with no news from the city, and we were disappointed when news reached us eventually that the site had been abandoned and plans had changed,” Travis Green, Arts Council marketing specialist, said. “I feel that it’s an embarrassment to the city. We cannot function as transients within our own city. I’m not asking for rushed development of an art center, but I am asking that there be more communication with the arts and residents of West Jordan about the progress being made.”

Victor Groves, chair of the Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan, who has visited council meetings often over the past few years said, “I’ve mentioned before that the old Sugar Factory location is ideal. We don’t need a facade on a busy boulevard. We don’t need a 600- to 800-seat arena. 200- to 400-seat will be an ideal venue. Please do the right thing and move it forward.”

Progress?

June is budget season, and the West Jordan City Council approved to put $3 million toward the center and promised an additional $3 million next fiscal year to finish the project. Danyce Steck ensured council that the funding is available. 

“One half of the Community Arts Center is coming from the Buildings Capital Fund, and we anticipate budgeting $3 million next year. That $6 million is sitting in reserves.”

The city may get additional funding from the county, but there are contingencies. 

“County money was based on the presentation of the location previously identified,” City Manager Dave Brickey said. “The county said you’d need to come back and identify the new place; they want to see the new location and a new proposed plan.”

To move forward, the council needed to approve the number of seats for the building. A long discussion ensued, interjected with jovial, frustrated remarks from council members. 

“I think that seating should be closer to 200-ish,” McConnehey said.

Councilmember Kayleen Whitelock disagreed. “If we’re going to expend $6 million then we need to get it right,” she said. “I’m building this for residents of our city. I want to have at least 300 seats. I feel that 300 seats gives you enough room big enough to support lots of different things not big enough to attract a lot of outside things.”

Mayor Jim Riding tried to move the discussion along. “We heard from the 501(c)3 group tonight that they would be happy with 200,” he said. “If we would just agree on that so that Mr. Brickey can move ahead with this.”

Subsequently, other councilmembers quietly bid, auction style, other seating numbers.

Councilmember Chad Lamb, “250.”

Councilmember Zach Jacob,”262.” 

Lamb, “251.”

Riding, “250 going once ... 250 going twice…”

In the end, the decision was to move forward with getting designs for a 250, fixed and sloped seating arrangement. 

“Once it’s ready, we will send it to all of you; please don’t change it,” Brickey said. “Let me get this done for you. We will then push it for it as fast as we can.”