Friday, February 23, 2007

Center arts festival to change venue

Planned construction in Sun Valley forces relocation

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts was granted permission by the Ketchum City Council Tuesday night to hold the Sun Valley Arts & Crafts Festival at Ketchum's Atkinson Park.

The council voted 3-1 to allow the event at the park for one year. Councilwoman Terry Tracy, a onetime parks & recreation director, cast the lone vote against the proposal, saying the north valley's only active park should remain for sports activities, not events.

"The park was developed and dedicated to recreation," Tracy said. "It is not intended for arts festivals or classic car (events) or concerts or events other than recreation. The impact of this will be considerable."

Tracy also said that if the city makes an exception for the festival, it could set a dangerous precedent.

"The council will be opening a Pandora's box," she said. "I don't know how you can approve one event and deny others."

Center Executive Director Sam Gappmayer said his organization would do what it could to minimize the impact and is asking permission for this year only—for now. The city then could revisit the issue after the August event to determine the impact, good or bad, and whether the arrangement should continue.

Gappmayer said the event attracts between 7,000 and 9,000 attendees, 40 percent of whom are out-of-towners who come specifically for the festival. By his estimates, they spend an average of $80 each while here.

The city has been trying to attract more events because with them come more visitors and more money spent in local establishments.

"We'd be crazy not to take a hard look at it," said Mayor Randy Hall.

Valley resident and attorney Barry Luboviski said the city would be crazy to go ahead with it.

"Philosophically, I think this is a giant mistake," he said.

Parks & Recreation Director Kirk Mason said he had some concerns about the wear and tear on the park's soccer field, saying the softball field would be a preferable spot.

Councilman Baird Gourlay, a soccer player, said the impact wouldn't be disastrous.

"That field's a mess anyway," he said.

Jerry Seiffert, mayor of Ketchum during the park's inception, disagreed with Tracy, saying the park shouldn't be, and hasn't always been, a single-purpose athletic venue.

"We did have concerts there the in the 1970s," he said. After the meeting, he said the park was jump-started by federal park funds and the city held myriad events there to promote its existence. Only later did it morph into a park targeted toward athletics.

Valley resident Linda Badell, a former ballet school president, said not all Wood River Valley kids are interested in winter sports, so the community should foster arts-oriented activities.

"It gives the children a chance to see the other part of life," she said.

The festival has been held on Sun Valley Co. property, but the company notified The Center that the arrangement would end after last August's event.

Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach said the resort has, in fact, enjoyed the presence of the Sun Valley Arts & Crafts Festival.

"We like having them here," he said. "They bring business. It's just that it's a possible construction site this summer."

Sun Valley hopes to get permission from the city of Sun Valley to begin construction of a new symphony pavilion at the site, Sibbach said.

"It will be in the lower soccer field area where the Sun Valley Arts & Crafts Fair was held," he said.

Sibbach added that he was not sure what that would mean for the possibility that the Arts & Crafts Festival could return to Sun Valley in future summers.

Councilman Ron Parsons voiced his support for a trial run at the Ketchum park this summer.

"Let's try this out for a year with no promises," he said.

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