Letters to the Editor

Debunking complaints about an arts center | Federal Way letters

Too many assumptions not based on fact seem to be the basis for the complaints against the civic center/performance/conference hall. A few letters in The Mirror need to have the complaints addressed with facts and questions.

Did any of the complainers attend any of the many monthly public meetings held at City Hall for over a year? If they had, they would have heard guest speakers from several area performance halls, a presentation from The Collins Group on fundraising and the executive director of 4Culture speaking on grants available for capital arts projects. They would have had the opportunity to ask questions of experts, as well as help define the facility best suited to serve Federal Way.

The complainers would have learned about the trip five council members, several staff members and some citizen representatives made to McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon, a performing arts and conference center similar in size and usage to what was envisioned here. Members of the architectural firm as well as the hall’s management team answered questions and did a presentation about what it meant to the community.

They would have heard about the other trips several citizens plus a couple of staff members took to five area performing arts centers — hearing pluses and minuses about their buildings and operations, and their conclusions that this proposed facility would be a definite economic benefit to Federal Way. The facility was a priority listed in the original Comprehensive Plan, and continued as a priority now. Did the complainers read the feasibility studies?

Why is there an assumption there would be an annual loss of $250,000? That figure was tossed out as a possible cost to operate, but it will be a rental facility, and studies indicate heavy usage, which means income, doesn’t it? Other nearby facilities are turning away requests for usage, and ours would have more space available for a variety of activities: large meetings, speakers, fundraisers, touring companies, school district concerts and music competitions.

Classes to learn technical skills such as sound and lighting could be offered — something not available in our schools now. Han Woo-Ri could be held there, as well as the MLK celebration and the veterans memorial event. Many local ethnic groups, which now go to the Auburn PAC, would be able to have functions in their own city. Our service clubs and Federal Way Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t have to hold their auctions or other fundraisers out of town, for lack of space here.

Another complaint, that the “arts group” knew about the selection of the Toys “R” Us site before the citizens, is totally wrong. I am as involved as any citizen in this project, but learned about the site at the council meeting where supportive e-mails from several Chamber of Commerce members were read. They might have read the packet of information about the purchase on the website, but I hadn’t, and know of no one else who did. From an earlier Mirror article, it seemed property owned by Keith Park was being considered, but since he owns several pieces, I guessed it might be the Pal-do World shopping strip. So again, the assumption of privileged knowledge was not correct.

Give the almost $6 million back to the state, or use it for police? This allocation is for capital projects only, from a state fund designated for that purpose. If we give it back, it might go to Bellevue for its PAC, and we can kiss goodbye the idea of ever getting funding from the state for this project again. Several of us made trips to Olympia armed with information, including current potential cost figures, and helped obtain the funds, thanks to our legislators, who all supported it.

A fundraising board is already in place, with representatives from several groups participating. With the land purchase, we can begin developing a campaign. The plan discussed is to have a non-profit utilized for this, as well as operate the facility.

We have the opportunity to own excellent centrally located land for at least $2 million less than the asking price. In about a year, with a design in place, we can begin fundraising in earnest. We know the cost would be many millions less than we originally projected if we can start soon. It appears the economy is improving. Until donors know what a facility will be, they’re unlikely to donate. Will I donate? You bet. I’ve been planning for this for over 20 years and, along with many others, will be happy to contribute to make Federal Way a first class city, at last.

Joann Piquette, Federal Way

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