Mt. Crested Butte woos CB Music Festival

Intends to bond up to $6 million in future project

If smiles were musical, there was a symphony in Mt. Crested Butte on Monday.  After a discussion behind closed doors, the Mt. Crested Butte Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board of directors announced their intent to partner with the Crested Butte Music Festival to build a 400-seat performing arts center near the base area of Crested Butte Mountain. 



A new performance facility is something the Music Festival has been considering for years according to artistic director Alexander Scheirle, but the potential partnership with the DDA was only developed within the span of a month.  “I can’t tell you how excited we are,” Scheirle says.  “I think it was just great timing and a great constellation of people.”   
Last month the DDA board started considering changing their official priorities for development around the base area.  Board chairman Allen Cox said it was becoming clear that the proposed $14 million aquatic recreation center was unfeasible for the time being, and the DDA needed to consider focusing on a different amenity that was more reasonable in the current economy.  After some discussion on how the priorities were developed, the board decided to take some time to consider amongst themselves how to proceed. 
Meanwhile, the Mt. Crested Butte town council has been giving the Music Festival grants from its admissions tax fund to support marketing efforts.  During a discussion earlier this year about admission tax funding for 2009, representatives for the Music Festival said they were also in need of additional performance and rehearsal spaces.  The town staff began working with the Festival to create a list of possible spaces that Music Festival musicians could practice in.  
On the side, Scheirle says he, several Music Festival board members, and members of the town staff started discussing the opportunity of partnering with the town on building a new performing arts facility and the idea was recently presented to the DDA.  
An executive session was scheduled during the DDA’s meeting on Monday, May 4 to give the board a chance to discuss, amongst themselves and town staff, their options in a potential partnership with the Crested Butte Music Festival to build a new performing arts center.  Representatives from the Music Festival waited outside during the executive session.  After 20 minutes of private discussion, the DDA board brought the public back in the room and set about doing two things.   
First, the DDA needed to change its official priorities for development at the base area.  
And second, they signed a letter of intent to partner with the Music Festival in building a new performing arts facility, providing the land it will be built on and bonding up to $6 million to fund the construction.  
During the meeting on Monday, Cox once again announced that the recreation center was a tough project to continue pursuing in the current economy.  He said building a rec center had been the DDA’s top priority for many years.  “We’re going to keep that, but we’re going to change our (top) priority to a music and performing arts center,”  Cox said.  
He said the rec center was currently, “difficult to build, it’s difficult to run, and we need more tax increment financing in the DDA’s boundaries that we don’t have right now.”  
The board unanimously approved keeping their current list of priorities in order, but moving a performing arts facility to the top of the list, just above the aquatic recreation center.  
Then it was on to a write letter of intent.  Board member Chip Christian said in light of the DDA’s new top priority, he moved to have the board write a letter of intent to enter a partnership with the Music Festival, providing a site for the facility at the current Inn Site 2 parcel (also known as the Rasta Lot, at the corner of Gothic and Treasury Roads), and drawing up to $6 million in a bond issue to finance construction costs, provided that the Music Festival contributes an additional $4 million and pays for the design process.
Furthermore, Christian said the letter should indicate that the DDA will appoint two members to a committee, consisting of himself and Sara Morgan, to work alongside the town council and Music Festival in keeping the project moving forward.  
Music Festival board member Woody Sherwood thanked the DDA for considering the partnership opportunity.  “This is a new era for the DDA in terms of what you’re doing and providing for the community,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood said it was important to note that the new facility will not just be limited to music performances, but will also serve a wide range of community needs as a gathering space.  
Scheirle said the music festival is hoping to build a facility with a seating capacity of 400 to 500, along with practice rooms and other spaces.  
In an interview following the meeting, Scheirle says the Music Festival is a strong supporter of the Center for the Arts and will continue to use that facility, but the Festival was in need of a much larger performing space.  The Center has a seating capacity of 215 and many Music Festival shows sell out. Along with giving more people the opportunity to view the same performance, Scheirle says the additional seating and ticket sales makes it easier to cover the cost of bringing in a large orchestra, as well as opens up the door to bring in even larger or more dynamic acts.  
Practice space is also needed.  For instance, Scheirle says the Festival started an instructional course for aspiring opera singers.  The Festival can currently only accommodate 10 people, but 35 applied for the course last year, and 175 applied this year.  
Scheirle says he believes the community is in need of multiple performing venues.  
However, the new facility still has a long way to go, including a fundraising campaign for the Music Festival, and time to go through the town’s planning and permitting processes.  “We’re very excited about the prospect, but there is a lengthy public process,” says mayor William Buck.  
Scheirle says in an ideal world, they could open the facility in the summer of 2012.  “That could easily change.  There are all sorts of issues yet to be solved.”

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