Jamboree, WSLRT ask city

Sean C. Morgan

Jamboree Officials and Dan Desler will meet with the City Council on April 12 to talk about a partnership in building a permanent amphitheater for the Oregon Jamboree.

Desler, managing trustee of Western States Land Reliance Trust (WSLRT); Sweet Home Economic Development Group (SHEDG) President Ron Moore; and SHEDG Director Herb Heier met with the council’s administration and finance committee, Mayor Craig Fentiman, Councilor Dick Hill and Councilor Jim Bean, on March 15 to review the proposal.

In the proposal, the city would partner in owning, developing and managing the proposed amphitheater, which would be located on former Willamette Industries land off Tamarack Street and 24th Avenue in a development called the Santiam Commons, which is being developed in conjunction with Santiam River Club and includes commercial, nonprofit and residential components.

With attendance climbing at the annual Jamboree country music camping festival, increasing costs for talent will drive either increases in ticket prices or the need for larger attendance. Right now, the Jamboree receives up to 9,000 spectators per day over the three-day event. Jamboree officials prefer to expand the number of patrons they can serve rather than raise ticket prices dramatically, and they have been exploring options for building a larger, permanent festival site.

Desler approached Jamboree Event Manager Peter LaPonte and explained that the Santiam River Club Master Plan calls for an amphitheater and that he would like to provide space for the Jamboree.

WSRLT and the Jamboree have reached an agreement, with SHEDG writing a letter of commitment to move forward and pursue discussions with WSLRT.

At this time, facility details focus on the specific needs of the Jamboree and the Santiam Commons. To meet those needs, the proposed amphitheater would seat 15,000 persons with WSLRT conditionally deeding about 50 acres and holding 35 acres in reserve as a lease-option.

An additional 52 acres would be temporarily available at the old Sweet Home Mill site as well as 238 acres on former Morse Brothers property for interim use.

If more space were needed for camping, SHEDG could continue working with School District 55 for camping, maintaining revenues the district earns from the event.

A 20-foot by 40-foot graveled area is contaminated, but design work can move forward. The trust will pay for cleanup, expected to be $73,000.

WSLRT and SHEDG hope to integrate the city into the overall proposal as a member of a joint venture, one-third each. Although the trust is the landowner, it would be up to SHEDG and the city to manage the property.

SHEDG’s responsibility would be to run and manage events at the amphitheater. Desler said he is willing to help SHEDG and the city pursue grants, which would flow through the city.

To move forward, three questions should be answered. If any are answered, “no,” then the agreement would be nullified.

Those questions include the following:

— Receipt of a “no further action” letter from the Department of Environmental Quality for contamination?

— Does the design layout meet the requirements of all parties?

— Will it pencil to make money without being a cash drain?

The intent is to integrate a potter’s village and the Santiam Commons with the event center. The design would incorporate Jamboree management suggestions, including the position and placement of the stage as well as other design considerations.

For instance, LaPonte said that backstage operations would require one to two acres and would affect placement of the stage. The design would address a pedestrian crossing at the railroad tracks since the parking area is on the north side of the tracks. Primary access to the site would be off Tamarack Street.

Financing would depend on grants, industrial revenue bonds and the sale of tax credits to investors. SHEDG, WSLRT and the city would work together on grant proposals.

The city’s participation would require no money but rather to act as a conduit to receive funds. WSLRT is arranging a credit line, and its deeding the land could constitute a match.

Since the configuration of the amphitheater is central to the Santiam Commons, modifications to the amphitheater would put further development on hold until the issue is resolved.

A proposed process would include agreement in principal, developing a timeline, developing a preliminary budget, hiring a design-engineering firm, developing a further timeline, identifying funding options, construction documents, bidding the project and completing necessary lease and management agreements.

SHEDG operates the Jamboree as a source of revenue for economic development projects in Sweet Home. It began operating the Jamboree in 1992.