The team behind the project to build a performing arts, science and education center on the Animas River is hoping to collaborate with the city of Durango for the next stage – a cultural master plan.
After the feasibility study was completed earlier this year, organizers of the Science, Theatre, Education, Arts and Music (STEAM) Park began researching similar centers, reviewing their master plans, financing and city involvement. Their goal is to build the center next to the Powerhouse Science Center on Camino del Rio. The site is currently occupied by the River City Hall and a Durango Fire Protection District station, so the project would require new sites for those facilities and a significant land commitment from the city.
“We want to keep moving forward; we don’t want to lose momentum,” said Sheri Rochford Figgs, the Durango STEAM Park project coordinator. “Right now, the city can’t commit the land with all the scenarios they have on their plate, city facilities, the sewer plant, the airport. We get that, but we believe there is a will of the people in the community based on what we’re hearing, that arts and culture are important.”
The STEAM Park carries an estimated price tag of $25 to $33 million, but organizers can’t begin a capital campaign without the site commitment, she said.
The Leadership Committee and several supporters of the project met with members of City Council and city staff Thursday morning to share what they’ve learned post-feasibility study. Figgs has forwarded 40 cultural master plans to city staff, she said, and the committee has fleshed out a draft of the project overview about the potential impact to the community of the STEAM Park.
The next step is to analyze master-plan processes and determine the cost. City Councilor Dick White also asked Figgs to research what percentage of overall budgets are dedicated to arts and culture in cities that have centers, which studies have shown can be an significant economic driver.
“Of course, the elephant in the room is the Powerhouse, and people saying, ‘Look what happened to them,’” Figgs said. “Our argument is that with synergy, having the STEAM Park group willing to run the facility and manage the earned income so the arts and culture nonprofits can focus on their passion and their mission, they won’t have to worry about all those things.”
Figgs said the STEAM Park is also looking at serving as a support to other arts and culture nonprofits, ensuring they have oversight, more board training and creating financial dashboards so board members can get an accurate picture to perform their fiduciary duties.
“None of us are patient people,” Figgs said with a laugh, “but we realize we have to do our due diligence and understand the city has to do it, too. We have a plate at the table, but we have to wait for our turn to be served.”