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(PHOTOS) CAM-PLEX master planners showcase vision

DOWL, Populous and CSL made their final presentation of the CAM-PLEX master plan Oct. 10.

Todd Gralla, director of equestrian services for Populous, tells attendees about the master plan. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — DOWL, Populous and CSL representatives made their final presentation of the CAM-PLEX master plan Oct. 10.

About 75 community members came to the Energy Hall of the facility, located at 1635 Reata Drive, Gillette.

About 75 people, including government leaders and staff, attend the Oct. 10 presentation. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Executive Director Aaron Lyles said there is no clear vision for the CAM-PLEX, and as buildings have aged three to four decades, decisions need to be made. He wonders whether the facility will benefit from the resiliency of Gillette.

“We do a lot to accommodate many, many things and in business, that’s a really classic recipe for not making revenue,” Lyles said.

The upgrades could have a total economic impact of $2 billion. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

CSL International Director Joel Feldman said the team examined factors like event space occupancy, competitors in the event space industry and what current users want in developing the plan. They analyzed whether the facility can provide those needs and whether it is practical for the community to do so. Continued investment into the CAM-PLEX is necessary to continue to keep its place in Campbell County, Wyoming and the region. Leaving status quo, or maintaining existing operations and not further investing in infrastructure, would lead to less event activity and fewer event attendees. Eventgoers want to go to facilities that are bettering themselves. In addition to maintaining the quality of the current facilities, they proposed changes, like creating or improving programming space for signature events, such as the National High School Finals Rodeo. For example, the Spirit Hall ice complex could be moved to free up space in the Wyoming Center. There is significant market demand for equestrian and livestock events, if there is more space. Project leaders should investigate private-sector partnerships to enhance the economics and sustainability of the facility.

(Mary Stroka/County 17)

Populous Principal and Director of Equestrian Services Todd Gralla said the team proposes that the ice arena could take the place of the Wrangler arenas and be a two-sheet complex, as the facilities need substantial improvement and are not drawing much income. The Wrangler arenas would be moved east and possibly become a covered arena and an outdoor arena. They would have their own entryways and parking, reducing competition with traffic and parking within the core of the campus.

The existing livestock area is the worst of the campus’s assets right now, as there are a lot of flooding problems and they’re not suitable for year-round use. The indoor arenas are also too small for equestrian events. Bathrooms and concessions facilities are also poor. The Central Pavilion and East Pavilion are old buildings but still good assets so they should be kept but improved.

The CAM-PLEX could have a jockey facility. The design the team has proposed is what they typically planned for centers in other areas of the U.S. There would need to be private funding for the jockey facility since that facility would be supporting private business.

Populous looked at similarities between space users. For example, horse racers like to have about 700 stalls, but that is not feasible for the complex to provide without allowing them to be used somehow when horse racing is not in season.

(Mary Stroka/County 17)

Over the next 30 years of the master plan, the total economic impact would be $2 billion, the consultants said.

Gralla said there would be three phases of construction. Phase 1 would involve a lot of work for infrastructure and relocation and rebuilding assets. With 2025 bidding, Phase 1 would cost about $90 million. Phase 2’s focus would be the arenas, livestock barns, warm-up spaces, parking and redevelopment of paid full-use RV and car parking. Bidding would be in 2026 at the earliest, with at least three years of construction. The expected cost would be about $150 million. Phase 3 would include items like the final pavement, some barn replacement and greenway improvements. Bidding would be around 2029 and the project would be completed in 2031, with about $26 million in costs.

Feldman said there would be costs for even keeping the CAM-PLEX at status quo. The team does not have a vested financial interest in the projects it studies.

“We are invested in these studies emotionally to understand and work on behalf of the community, to understand what potential opportunities exist with investment moving forward,” he said.

(Mary Stroka/County 17)

Nearly all respondents to a March survey of local people and event producers support development at the facility, Lyles said after the event’s conclusion. While opinions on specific improvements are varied, everyone said they want to see them happen. There is also a letter of commitment from the National High School Finals Rodeo that is worth about $200 million. The community must decide whether it wants to accept the deal.

In August, the Campbell County Public Land Board approved accepting a letter of intent from the association that if, by January 2025, the community funds improvements that meet its needs, it will make a 10-year commitment to holding its event annually at CAM-PLEX.

Improvements to the facility would include changes and upgrades for the arenas and barns. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

The next step, most likely, will be for the City of Gillette leaders, Campbell County commissioners and Town of Wright leaders to determine if they want voters to see a ballot referendum for funding improvements, Lyles said. He is pretty sure there will be a ballot referendum, and he believes voters should have the opportunity to say whether they want the improvements, unless a private donor comes forward to privatize operations.

CAM-PLEX Executive Director Aaron Lyles asks attendees to reflect on what they want for the facility. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

“We don’t know what the next 10 or 20 years really holds. All we can do is plan for flexibility,” Feldman said.

Feldman said one of the plan’s positive aspects is that much of the vision can be adjusted without changing the whole project.

To see the plan and photos, see County 17’s coverage here. To see the full plan as of Sept. 6, click here.

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