Over 1 million readers this year!

Master plan team examines challenges, opportunities for CAM-PLEX

CAM-PLEX recently hosted a public forum to share the budding work of the team that's conducting master planning.

CSL Director Joel Feldman presents the team's findings at the March 30 public forum. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — CAM-PLEX recently hosted a public forum to share the budding work of the team that’s conducting master planning.

CSL International Director Joel Feldman said at the March 30 meeting that the team’s studying what the CAM-PLEX and the surrounding area offer, the history of CAM-PLEX operations, how CAM-PLEX competes with similar facilities, and industry trends. They’ve inventoried what facilities in the region venues have to offer.

Feldman said the team seeks to make recommendations that are economically and financially sustainable and savvy. They want the proposals to help the community, support growth and attract organizations that will have a long-term relationship with the facility and the county.

First thoughts

  • Feldman said that it’s important that the CAM-PLEX not try to be everything for everyone. There needs to be time during the year when the buildings won’t be used. That will help avoid staff burnout, allow for building maintenance and attract event organizers that would like to book space. Currently, CAM-PLEX spaces are exceeding a best practices targeted occupancy limit of 70%.
  • He said that CAM-PLEX can be the “front door” for Campbell County’s tourism industry, as people who attend events might want to come back to visit or even move into the county.
  • He said that tradeshow and conference clients would love to see a hotel that’s physically connected to CAM-PLEX facilities, like the Wyoming Center. The team would examine whether it’s worthwhile investment.
  • There are opportunities in ice hockey, which is popular throughout the region. The CAM-PLEX could draw tournaments if there’s a second sheet. That sheet could be outside, with partial covering, that could be used for other types of events during the warmer months.
  • As many Campbell County community members are conditioned to traveling to other cities for concerts and entertainment, the team has to examine whether it’s cost-effective to position the CAM-PLEX for those events.

Survey and focus group findings

In addition to surveying Campbell County community members, the team reached out to organizations that have had events and those that haven’t selected CAM-PLEX to find out what keeps them coming or what stops them from coming, he said.

Feldman said that 94% of 49 surveyed organizers of past events at CAM-PLEX said that they would definitely or likely bring their event back even if CAM-PLEX made no changes. All event organizers said that if CAM-PLEX made improvements, they would definitely or likely bring their event back. Eighty percent said they would definitely come back.

“If we don’t do anything, yes, we’re still going to get business. We’re still going to get events and activities. We’re still going to be able to provide some quality of life,” Feldman said. “But we’re going to start to see some of those events slip away. We’re not going to see the same enthusiasm.”

Next steps

He said the community also needs to contemplate what the balance of community use and economic benefit-driving use should be at the CAM-PLEX. The team’s also examining staffing challenges and whether it would be possible to reduce the CAM-PLEX’s reliance on volunteers for large events.

CAM-PLEX Executive Director Aaron Lyles said the team talked about having stall barns that are designed with removable interior walls, which could reduce cleaning a stall barn to one hour instead of three months.

Lyles said he’s pleased that the team is asking tough questions, not just “rubber stamping.”

After additional research, the team will prepare and present preliminary designs that the market can support and how the CAM-PLEX could achieve them. The team will complete cost estimates and cost-benefit analysis. Lyles said April 3 that several more public forums regarding master planning will take place. The next forum, which will be more focused on site planning, should take place in about 35 to 40 days. The date is still being finalized with the team’s travel schedules.

Lyles said the National High School Rodeo’s proposal that if the CAM-PLEX would meet certain needs, it would make Gillette its home, set the stage for determining what the community wants for the CAM-PLEX.

He said that the city of Gillette, Campbell County and the Campbell County Public Land Board need to have a united vision for the future of CAM-PLEX so that there can be smart solutions.

“At one point in time, the common vision was this was the fairgrounds, and those who bought into that common vision at that point in time and made things happen probably feel slighted that it has anything going on but the fairgrounds,” he said. “But certainly, I think the Wyoming Center proves that that can be part of the fair and more. It’s not my place to try to figure out or direct to the community what ought to be getting done. I think it’s my responsibility to make sure that your feedback is getting to the people that are going to test whether it’s even feasible and then taking it from there to trust the industry experience from those who designed Churchill Downs and its constant regrowth. We have the biggest heavy-hitters that we can go get.”

He said that without a united vision, the master planning effort is futile.

The Campbell County Public Land Board will meet April 13.