Chris Fidler, executive director of the Field Arts and Events Hall, stands in what will be a conference area during a tour of the Port Angeles facility on Friday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Chris Fidler, executive director of the Field Arts and Events Hall, stands in what will be a conference area during a tour of the Port Angeles facility on Friday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Field Hall begins hiatus

Focus shifts to fundraising

PORT ANGELES — The walls are up and the stage is set.

What remains is completing the job.

Construction temporarily stopped for up to a year Thursday on the Field Arts & Events Center while organizers ramp up a fundraising campaign to raise about an estimated $14 million of the $50 million needed to complete the project.

Chris Fidler, executive director of the Field Arts and Events Hall, stands in what will be a conference area during a tour of the Port Angeles facility on Friday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Chris Fidler, executive director of the Field Arts and Events Hall, stands in what will be a conference area during a tour of the Port Angeles facility on Friday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

“I’d say the pause will be a minimum of six months and no more than 12,” Brooke Taylor, Port Angeles Waterfront Center board president, said last week, describing the delay as a pause.

Taylor estimated that, once construction resumes on the 41,000-square foot building, another six months of work will be done, and two months of final preparations such as testing the building’s systems will be conducted.

That pins the inside date for opening doors to performance-event patrons, conference and banquet attendees, art gallery-goers and coffee shop customers to May 2022 — and the outside date to November 2022.

Taylor said a $15 million gap will be shrunk to $14 million by a $1 million bequest from the estate of the late Patricia “Pat” Donlin of Port Angeles.

That will drop to $12 million if a highly touted Building for the Arts Grant for the project — Field Hall was the top-rated applicant — is approved by the state Legislature. State Rep. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend said Friday it has “a good chance” of being included in the upcoming state budget.

Field Arts & Events Hall executive director Chris Fidler talks about the building from the upstairs lobby of the building. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Field Arts & Events Hall executive director Chris Fidler talks about the building from the upstairs lobby of the building. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Field Hall’s now-silent work in progress was punctuated Friday with a few “Wet Paint” signs. They hung on metal door handles inside the cavernous window-wrapped, steel and Douglas fir-glue-laminated building at West Front and North Oak streets.

“It’s now a dried, lit and tempered shell and core,” Field Hall Executive Director Chris Fidler said Friday as he began an hour-long walk-through of the building, which hugs the shorline of Port Angeles Harbor.

“We’re down to the brass tacks right now,” Fidler said as he walked though checking to see that doors were locked and other details finished. “I had 19 things on my punch list yesterday. I have eight today, and then we are done.”

The concert stage will become a centerpiece to the Field Arts & Events Hall. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The concert stage will become a centerpiece to the Field Arts & Events Hall. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Eventually-to-be-polished concrete floors, poured seamlessly by Angeles Concrete of Port Angeles, were empty of workers.

Other North Olympic Peninsula subcontractors hired by the main contractor, Minneapolis, Minn.-based M.A. Mortenson Company, included Jamestown Excavating of Sequim and Olympic Electric of Port Angeles.

Skeletal aluminum framing that airily marked off empty space for a coffee shop and a 1,000-square-foot art gallery — both of which will be open year-round via their own individual, Olympic Discovery Trail-side entrances — awaited wallboard shells.

A 40- to 50-foot ceiling lorded over it all, including a grand staircase next to 40 feet of windows in the lobby and a 500-seat performance hall void of seats. Bare concrete risers terraced the 150-seat balcony.

Already obvious was Morris Auditorium’s clarity of view. It was empty of sight obstructions, giving viewers unfettered visual access to a massive stage capable of offering the intimacy of a single lecturer or the joyous cacophony of a many-splendored musical.

The auditorium’s acoustical sharpness will grace performances courtesy of Norwalk, Conn.-based Jaffe Holden, the same East Coast firm that delivers sterling sound to Lincoln Center, offering musicians an acumen that duplicates the same sound during jam-packed performances as in no-audience rehearsals.

It’s about baffles and curtains, Fidler said.

“It’s all a matter of controlling the reverberation,” he noted.

A maximum 400-seat conference area on the second floor, with a warming kitchen outfitted with advice from Peninsula caterers, offered panoramic views of Port Angeles Harbor to the north, and at the southern end of the second floor, sharp-toothed Klahhane Ridge.

A “founder’s room” will be carved out for small get-togethers with views of both the harbor and the Olympics.

When construction begins anew, the rest of the building will be framed out. An elevator will be installed, interior finishes and flooring completed — and bathrooms built on both the first and second floors.

“People were very interested in how many bathroom stalls we would have because of the limitations of some local venues,” Fidler said.

A grand staircase rises from the main lobby of the Field Arts & Events Hall. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A grand staircase rises from the main lobby of the Field Arts & Events Hall. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

“For women, we have eight on the orchestra level and eight on the balcony level,” he said, adding the men’s facilities will have a similar number.

The conference area, built with about two dozen floor-level multi-use WiFi outlets, rivals the auditorium in size. Combined, they are expected to draw 140 annual events, from luncheons to full-scale performances.

“This is kind of the economic engine in the building,” Fidler said in the conference area, “Leadership is an Art” written on a banner and a Crowley Maritime tug nesting in the harbor.

“But that is the mission,” he said, pointing to the adjacent performance hall.

Both Fidler and Taylor noted in separate interviews the recent fifth straight successful audit accomplished by the Port Angeles Waterfront Center, the parcel where the project is located.

Taylor said it’s something to be proud of as they prepare for the essential face-to-face events so important to fundraising that have been stymied since early 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said should be under control by this summer.

A wall of windows surrounds a conference area, offering commanding views of Port Angeles Harbor. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A wall of windows surrounds a conference area, offering commanding views of Port Angeles Harbor. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The project has just two employees — Fidler and office manager Jess Grello — with the lion’s share of funds paying for planning, design and construction.

Taylor urged taking a look at the Waterfront Center’s IRS Form 990, a public financial document that showed Fidler earning $69,852 in the nonprofit’s 2019 filing.

It showed $2.8 million paid to LMN Architects of Seattle and $1.5 million to Mortenson.

Parking plans

Taylor said he’s counting on Bellevue developer Eric Dupar completing construction of a parking garage across West Front Street from Field Hall by the time the center, one of the largest building projects in the North Olympic Peninsula’s history, opens its doors. Adequate parking is key to Field Hall’s success.

Dupar is in talks with the city about the multi-use project, Community and Economic Development Director Allyson Brekke said Friday, but he must first buy the surplus parcel from the city, a process Brekke said has been delayed by the pandemic.

Dupar’s conditional use permit was approved in July for his estimated $22 million, 109,000-square-foot Anian Shores development on the parcel. It includes the 320-parking-stall garage and an adjacent 79-unit residential building with ground-floor stores and a restaurant.

City Manager Nathan West said Saturday in a text message that the last time he spoke with Dupar, Dupar was still planning to move forward with those plans.

Chris Fidler stands on the stage of the Field Arts & Events Hall’s performance venue. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Chris Fidler stands on the stage of the Field Arts & Events Hall’s performance venue. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

“The city is still in regular communication with Mr. Dupar and looking forward to helping him with the successful implementation of his project,” West said.

Dupar has applied for a building permit to change the use and remodel the interior of the 4,853-square-foot vacant building just east of the surplus property at 120 North Oak St., a corner lot owned by his Waterfront LLC of Bellevue.

Dupar would create six residential units.

The 120 N. Oak Street parcel has been owned by the city of Port Angeles and Clallam Transit.

Dupar did not return calls for comment about the projects Thursday and Friday made via email and his answering service.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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