SEQUIM – The whole idea, just about scrapped, has suddenly been saved.
Though Patsy Mattingley of the Sequim City Band shepherded a plan for a 560-seat concert hall through two years of talks with the city of Sequim, it ended up mired in red tape — and squelched by the state Department of Ecology.
The auditorium was to be a jewel for the Dungeness Valley, a place for orchestra concerts, speakers’ series and world-class performances.
It was also designed as an expansion of the city’s James Center bandshell, and like that outdoor stage, the new indoor venue would be turned over to the city to operate.
Mattingley maintained, in her many talks with city officials, that it would pay for itself by attracting popular performers and enthusiastic crowds.
But also like the bandshell, the expanded James Center would look out on a swath of land designated for a specific use.
The land – some 29 acres — is the Water Reuse Demonstration Site, an Ecology-funded proving ground for water reclamation.
Therein lies the trouble.
“Ecology believes this land use is not consistent with the intent of the funding,” the department wrote to interim city manager Linda Herzog in June.
Though reclaimed water could be used in the hall’s restrooms, the site was meant for larger-scale demonstrations of reuse water on open spaces such as the Master Gardeners’ flowers and herbs and on soccer fields the city has talked about for the past year.
So although Mattingley and her team had raised about $2 million toward the $6 million cost of the concert hall, they began to reconsider.
At a gathering of supporters Friday night at the SunLand country club – a reception Mattingley called the “Reprise,” she laid out the options.
“Our choice,” she said, “was to shut down the project or find another site and go out on our own.”
Mattingley paused. And then delivered the news.
Considering new site
“The steering committee has decided to go forward,” she said. “We’re looking at one site in particular near the center of town,” where the concert hall could rise.
The steering committee is made up of local arts luminaries such as Dewey Ehling, director of the Port Townsend Community Orchestra, the Peninsula Chamber Singers and the annual Handel With Care sing-along “Messiah;” Vern Fosket, band director at Sequim High School; and jazz singer Tracy Blume.
They envision an acoustically exquisite hall where people from across the North Olympic Peninsula can be intimate with great music, hear an illustrious lecturer or attend a reader’s theater performance.
It would be a place for local musicians, such as the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra and the Olympic Express big band, and for internationally known acts.
No city involvement
At this point, however, Mattingley and the committee must restart their feasibility study and “run the numbers,” as she put it.
“Right now, we’re talking about owning our own piece of property,” Mattingley said, adding that the concert hall needs 5 acres on which to construct a building and a parking lot.
In a later interview, Mattingley added that she has a donor who may be interested in purchasing the property that would place the concert hall near downtown. This donor may reserve the right to name the hall, she said.
So the venue has a new lease on life: Since it’s no longer connected to the city of Sequim or the James Center, the committee won’t need the building to match the barnlike bandshell.
Sequim City Council member Ken Hays has been the architect of record since the project’s conception; he said he’s “partly a volunteer and partly a paid consultant.”
Since the hall is no longer on the table as a city-run facility, Hays feels it will be “less conflicting” with his duties as a city official.
Erecting a separate auditorium instead of an addition to the bandshell means “more opportunities for different acoustic models,” Hays said. “It could allow us to pull the audience closer to the stage.”
The new direction may also bring the project to fruition much sooner.
Mattingley said she and the steering committee will finish their cost analysis by August’s end.
“A few weeks ago, we were feeling pretty discouraged,” she said. “Now we’re getting excited again.”
“If anybody has any ideas or comments, we’re really looking forward to hearing from you,” Mattingley said.
She can be reached at 360-683-8226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She also added that the Sequim City Band, with Mattingley on flute and piccolo, will appear at 3 p.m. Sunday at the James Center bandshell.
The free concert will feature “everything from Glenn Miller to the rock band Chicago,” Mattingley promised.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladaily news.com.