This November voters will be asked to decide whether Laramie County Community College will be able to renovate the Fine Arts building and construct a new performing arts center.
The total cost for the project is $14 million. The Wyoming Legislature has approved a $7 million contribution toward the project, with LCCC expected to come up with the remaining funds. The LCCC Foundation has raised $1 million in private donations for the project. Voters are being asked to approve a mill levy over four years for the remaining $6 million.
The ballot initiative comes fresh off a devastating blow to LCCC last fall when voters overwhelmingly rejected a $29.5 million request for campus improvements. That money was to be used for renovating the Fine Arts building, the Recreation and Athletics Complex, and constructing a new residence hall.
Because this year’s request is much smaller and over a shorter timeline, there is optimism within the LCCC community that voters will approve the mill levy.
“There are quite a few things that have changed between now and last year. Last year, it was three projects, $30 million, 15 year commitment, pretty significant. This year, we’re asking for one project, and asking for a one-mill election that would only be on the books for four years,” LCCC President Dr. Joe Schaffer said. “So, just the scope, the size, and the focus have changed substantially since last year.”
According to Schaffer, the project is necessary for three reasons. He said the Fine Arts building needs to be renovated to improve functionality and instructional capabilities, and that an auditorium is needed to fully serve the community.
“Cheyenne and Laramie County, for whatever reason, really do have an opportunity to host and play home for many different events, both campus sponsored and non-campus sponsored ones, and adding capacity for us to host and do those types of those things serves our community better,” Schaffer said.
Adding an auditorium to campus would also alleviate coordinating challenges for events, Schaffer said.
“Whether it is a guest lecturer, right now we have to either find room in the Pathfinder Building or up here in our Centennial Room that really is not designed for lecture or colloquia. And then of course our concerts, plays, performances, all of those things, it’s a challenge to be able to access the community spaces for more than a day or two. The cost of renting a space like the Civic Center, it costs an incredible amount of money,” Schaffer said.
According to Lisa Trimble, associate vice president of Institutional Adcancement, in addition to providing a space for student-based productions and performances, a new auditorium would allow LCCC to better serve the community.
“It does fill a need for us here at the college, in regards to performance and event space, but we also feel that it provides and fills a need that comes within our community,” Trimble said.
The main reason the Fine Arts building needs renovated is to improve functionality. According to Dean of Arts and Humanities Daniel Powell, “Western Fine Arts is in desperate need of renovation, just for basic functionality.”
“Much of the systems and the infrastructure of the building are outdated and really in disrepair, Schaffer said. “The Clay Gallery is the only place left on campus that has baseboard heating systems. As a result of that, we have an old boiler system, and the only reason we haven’t updated our boiler system to a higher efficiency system for the campus is because of that one room.”
The HVAC and electrical systems are also antiquated in the Fine Arts building.
Another reason cited for the renovation is to improve instructional capabilities. For example, art students cannot use oil-based paints due to ventilation issues. Rooms lack adequate soundproofing, which causes issues for the music department.
“I really think it comes down to providing quality educational environments for our students. This particular building is outdated and obviously aged, and has probably seen some of the least amount of renovation and improvements to it at its time at LCCC ,” Trimble said.
While the Fine Arts building houses programs such as art and music, it also provides general education courses such as English to the majority of LCCC students. Trimble suggests the renovation would benefit most of the students who attend LCCC.
“It’s not just about visual arts, it’s not just about performance arts, it’s really about all of our students, and the fact that this particular area provides such a great piece of our general education experience for students, it impacts many of our students,” Trimble said.
The $8 million already raised for the project won’t be available for an indefinite period of time. The $7 million pledged from the Legislature is for this project only, and the matching funds will be pulled if the college doesn’t raise its half within a two-year timeframe. The $1 million in donations allocated from the LCCC Foundation are also only for this specific project and cannot be allocated elsewhere.
“We will lose, not only the $7 million that the legislature has earmarked for us that will go away in two years, but also the $1 million the Foundation has raised to make this happen,” Powell said. “We don’t want that money to be lost for our community, especially considering the amount of good it can do.”