A packed Rustic Theatre listens to Chris Trout, who opened the public meeting about the Idyllwild Community Center project Monday night. Read more on the meeting below. Photo by Tom Kluzak
A packed Rustic Theatre listens to Chris Trout, who opened the public meeting about the Idyllwild Community Center project Monday night. Read more on the meeting below. Photo by Tom Kluzak

The Rustic Theatre was filled late Monday afternoon with an audience who came not for the latest comic-book film, but rather to hear about the progress and future of the long-awaited Idyllwild Community Center.

Despite several interruptions for applause and a standing ovation for the site’s generous benefactors — Dave and Loie Butterfield —the board met its goal to wrap up before 6:30 p.m., in order that the evening film could be shown on time.

Jim Marsh, architect for the San Jacinto Mountains Community Center (its official name), discussed the progress for obtaining the Conditional Use Permit and said, “We’re near the end. I actually see light at the end of the tunnel.” The audience heartily appreciated this observation.

The remaining two reports are a water-quality management plan and more endemic plant species observations this spring.

Marsh expects the Riverside County Planning Commission to hold hearings on the permit late this spring, which will lead to a review by the board of supervisor, which he also expects will hold a public hearing.

Meanwhile, the ICC board is preparing to submit its building permit for the amphitheater and parking concurrently with the approval of the CUP. Marsh stated this is a common practice and will allow the construction to begin, perhaps, in early September.

Construction will not start until the 2016 Idyllwild Summer Concert Series is completed. Depending on fall and winter weather, Marsh said the goal is to have the parking and amphitheater completed in time for the 2017 Concert Series.

During the question session, someone asked if the playground would be closed during the construction. It may be for several reasons, including the proximity of the construction to area and insurance concerns. However, until the board has an opportunity to discuss the possibility of alternative access to the play area, the answer is “still to be determined until we have a contractor,” Marsh replied.

Several other questions were about the decision to build the amphitheater first and the future of other phases.

Marsh had described the four construction phases during his presentations and Janice Lyle, board president, discussed the organizations finances, too.

Several questioners asked why the amphitheater was the first priority and when the Community Center and swimming pool would be built. Questioners referred to community polls from the mid-2000s that indicated support for these facilities, too.

After Phase 1, which is the parking areas and amphitheater, Marsh said Phase 2 would be the Community Center, which would have meeting rooms, a large lobby and a kitchen. Phase 3 would be the gymnasium and Phase 4 would be the swimming pool.

Lyle had stated that the Community Center Board had about $650,000 and an additional pledge of $1.5 million, which is the estimated cost of Phase 1. The board believes it will have about $800,000 available after completion of Phase 1, which means it will need about another $1.2 million for the Community Center building.

The board also is developing plans to generate income for the facility’s operations after it is completed.

But Robert Priefer, the site’s designer, gave the essential answer. “The reason is, we can afford [the amphitheater]. It keeps the project moving forward. We won’t do the building until we can afford or keep it going … the pool has always been in the plans.”

And again, the audience expressed its appreciation with the board’s candor.

During her discussion of the history of the ICC, the current site and its future, Lyle expressed community gratitude to the Butterfields for purchasing the 5-acre site and for their donations of the property and funding to get it established and operational.

As a result, she announced that the board had voted to recognize their generosity and named it the Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek. The future building will be called the Community Center.

At that point, the entire audience stood, applauded and thanked the Butterfields for their gift to the Idyllwild community.

The next major fundraising event is Saturday, June 11, at the French Quarter on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The afternoon of music includes Peter Sprague and the Soul Project; Deanna Bogart with Chuck Alvarez, Bill Saitta and Jeff Olsen; Jazz Grass led by Barnaby Finch; and Steph Johnson and Rob Thorson. There will be 250 tickets available for $45 each until early June, according to Suzy Capparelli, chair of the Building Capital Campaign Committee.