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Cheyenne’s Community Recreation and Events Department has lowered its original $40 million sixth-penny sales tax proposal for the Cheyenne Civic Center to $24 million. The new proposal includes more restrooms, Americans with Disabilities Act improvements for seating and access, and an orchestra pit. Photographed on Thursday, April 15, 2021, in downtown Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – After proposing a $40 million sixth-penny sales tax measure for the Cheyenne Civic Center late last year, the city’s Community Recreation and Events Department came back to the council Thursday with a less-expensive, phased plan for renovations.

The new proposal includes about $24 million to resolve “as many public concerns as possible,” department director Teresa Moore said, which includes: more restrooms; Americans with Disabilities Act improvements for seating and access to the stage, which is not available now; an orchestra pit and lift, which can’t currently support the weight of a concert grand piano; new sound, lighting and rigging systems; and a fire suppression system.

“Quality-of-life projects are all assets that make businesses and people of all ages want to live, work, play and visit Cheyenne,” Moore said. “We need a Civic Center because it creates experiences, builds social cohesion, enhances quality of life and promotes economic development. From July 2018 to June 2019 alone, the Civic Center had an estimated $2.8 million economic impact. This venue regularly generates sales tax revenue for the city of Cheyenne and drives tourism.”

The Civic Center is approaching its 40-year anniversary this month, and Moore said the deterioration of the facility is a direct reflection of the city’s lack of investment. One major issue is that the venue is not ADA compliant, which opens the city up to litigation and limits the abilities of residents and visitors with disabilities to enjoy the venue.

“Since the venue’s opening day, there has been little to no updates. … We are coping with substandard technical support and patron accommodations,” Moore said.

“The consequences of non-action will result in escalating increases in operational costs. The venue will require ongoing repairs, technical equipment rentals and the potential of mechanical system failures, to name a few.”

Other lower-priority projects

Community Recreation and Events Deputy Director Jason Sanchez laid out two more sixth-penny options for the department, though both he and Moore made it clear that the Civic Center is the number one priority.

The second ask would include about $3 million for new irrigation systems at Lakeview and Bethel cemeteries, which are more than 50 years old.

“We are obligated to provide perpetual maintenance of our current cemeteries, but our Perpetual Care Fund is not sufficient enough to cover this expense,” Sanchez said. “We have a little over 40,000 monuments, approximately 600 to 800 trees that the current irrigation system just can’t provide adequate coverage for. … Currently, according to BOPU, we use approximately 29 million gallons to irrigate the cemeteries annually. … We have to drag garden hoses and put sprinkler heads out in areas where the current irrigation system does not reach, which eats up a lot of manpower and a lot of water.”

The third proposal would include about $7.5 million for renovations to the Dutcher Baseball Complex, which is more than 40 years old.

New lights would be installed at the fields, as some of the wooden poles are beyond the point of repair, Sanchez said, and higher backstops would be added to help with safety. The concessions facility and restrooms would be replaced, using designs that would meet ADA standards, and a synthetic turf would be installed.

“Baseball is just growing in Cheyenne, and we have a high demand for field use and field space,” Sanchez said. “Our thought is before we add more facilities, we renovate what we have to maximize their use. We currently have five fields out there, but only two of them have less. So if we were to add lights on all five, … we could maximize the use of the facility and provide services for many different age groups.”

Council members will hold one more work session on sixth-penny proposals this week before finalizing and forwarding a list of requests for this fall’s ballot to county commissioners by April 28.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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