Community Center progress: Amphitheater construction to start in spring

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Late Saturday afternoon, a large crowd, more than 70 people, came to the “Poised and Proceed” community conversation about the Idyllwild Community Center to be constructed at the Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek. Photo by John Drake

By JP Crumrine

News Editor

Persistent, arduous, excruciating and challenging, these were the speaker’s words, which preceded a standing ovation.

On a cold Saturday and late in the afternoon, more than 70 people came out to hear about the future of the Idyllwild Community Center. Janice Lyle, president of the board for the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center, opened the meeting and, with others, described the next steps to turn the dream of the ICC into reality.

To get to this point, “… has not been a walk in the park,” she said, but she and others are excited about what will happen in the next 24 to 30 months.

It took two years and more than $100,000 for fees and reports to obtain Riverside County’s approval for the conditional use permit for development at the Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek. Saturday’s public session was entitled “Poised to Proceed.” Lyle, Architect Jim Marsh, Designer Robert Priefer, Chris Trout, marketing, and Pete and Suzy Capparelli explained the steps necessary, beginning this winter, to complete the ICC construction and implement its programs for the public.

CSA 36 recreation programs

In addition, SJMCC will now be the recreation manager for County Service Area 36. Lyle said Bob Lewis, recreation director, will remain and is now on SJMCC’s staff.

“The current program continues to the end of the fiscal year, June. We’ll evaluate the program and welcome community support. We want to enhance programs we have and add new programs,” said Pete Capparelli, who heads the SJMCC committee to oversee management of the recreation activities.

Other members of the committee to whom the public could speak are Chris Perreault, Wendy Read, Barry Wallace or Lewis, according to Capparelli.

The recreation program will continue at Town Hall. Capparelli added that SJMCC is negotiating to continue to use Town Hall until the ICC facility is finished, then, “The programs will be moved from here to the new building.”

Lewis stressed that these are “exciting times and a crazy journey.” Besides these programs, Lewis will assume responsibility for both the Idyllwild Skate Park and Dog Park, located on the Idyllwild Pines campus. He is working with pickleball players to find a new location for them.

Lewis also said more programs for teens and seniors are on the prospective agenda. And, he also said the rumor that the afterschool or kindergarten program would be closed was false.

A contract between SJMCC and the Hemet Unified School District for use of the Idyllwild School gymnasium was on the agenda for HUSD’s Feb. 7 meeting.

Janice Lyle, president of the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center board, addresses a capacity crowd at Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 4. Lyle, and other members of the board, explained and answered questions about the arduous process that resulted in approval of Phase 1 of the Idyllwild Community Center, construction of which is planned to begin in May, and the plans for phases 2 through 4. Photo by Tom Kluzak

ICC construction phases

The plan for Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek has four construction phases. The first phase is building the amphitheater and the parking areas, according to Marsh. A request for bids on this work has been issued. The bids are due on March 1. After their review and an award of the contract, the groundbreaking for the amphitheater could be as early as May, Lyle said.

The architect for the amphitheater was Whitney Sander, who also designed the Lowman Concert Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

The location for the amphitheater is a perfect bowl, Marsh said. He reminded people that the amphitheater faces toward Highway 243, opposite the homes across Strawberry Creek, but is below street level, so sounds and noises will be muted.

The funding for this phase is secure. Another generous contribution from Dave and Loie Butterfield, who donated the land in 2008, and earlier fundraising, is available for the estimated cost of about $2 million.

Suzy Capparelli (center) announces the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center’s plan to organize “Idyllwild’s Got Talent!” fundraiser this spring. Joining her was Trish Tuley (left). In the background are Jim Marsh, architect, Robert Priefer, board member, Chris Trout, marketing, and Janice Lyle, president of the SJMCC board.
Photo by John Drake

After this construction begins, the 2017 Idyllwild Summer Concert Series, which had been held at the Butterfield Commons for many years, will have to be moved, according to Lyle. The group is working with Ken Dahleen, producer of the summer concerts, to find an alternative location for this summer.

The playground area also will be closed for safety reasons and SJMCC is investigating alternative sites for it until construction is completed.

The intent is to complete the amphitheater in time for the 2018 Summer Concert Series.

Phase 2 will be constructing the ICC building. Lyle and Marsh expect its construction to begin shortly after completion of Phase 1.

The entrance will be ground level in the front, but the back will be two stories tall looking over the amphitheater and Strawberry Creek.

It will house a lobby galley, reception area, offices, teen center, activities room (which can be separated into two rooms), a full-sized commercial kitchen and a large deck off the lower floor in back, as well as restrooms.

Its cost is estimated to be about $2.4 million. The SJMCC board already has $400,000 for this phase and, with the help of 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington, his staff and the county’s Economic Development Agency staff, it hopes to secure a community Development Block Grant for $1.2 million to initiate construction of Phase 2 as Phase 1 ends.

However, more funds will be needed to finish this phase, Lyle said.

Another view of the attendees at Saturday discussion about the Idyllwild Community Center plans. Photo by John Drake

The board will be seeking other grants and donations from large donors. Also, a committee led by Suzy Capparellii and Trish Tuley is organizing a “Idyllwild’s Got Talent!” for May. (See accompanying story for details.)

Phase 3, Marsh said, will be a gymnasium and the final phase will be a swimming pool.

A member of the audience asked if Pine Cove residents would pay more for ICC programs based on the new ICC management contract for CSA 36 funds. CSA 36 activities are funded from the $35 parcel fee on Idyllwild and Fern Valley properties.

In response, Capparelli and Lyle said that issue has not been examined. The new situation with funding for the operation of future ICC programs coming in part from CSA 36 revenue will be evaluated with that commitment in mind.

At present, CSA 36 activities, such as kids sports, adult sports and after school care do not charge an additional fee for Pine Cove residents. There will be no change in these procedures for the remainder of the school year, according to Lyle and Lewis. 

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  1. Please let us know when the next meeting will be held. Many of us part-timers are interested and need to make plans to be up the hill, especially when weather factors in for a challenging drive on Hwy 243.

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