Council Moves Ahead With Casper Events Center Improvements
The 37-year-old Casper Events Center, affectionately known as the Pizza Hut on the Hill, has hosted thousands of events from concerts to rodeos to trade shows to sporting events.
It's showing its age, but people don't often see the wear and tear that affects the infrastructure including safety, utilities, security and even the kitchen.
Tuesday, the Casper City Council got a first-hand look at some of the problems when it held its work session at the Events Center.
For example, the coolers in the kitchen are original to the building, the center's operations director Paul Hanson said.
One of them is so degraded that the Events Center staff had to shore up the ceiling of the cooler with a 2-by-4 covered with a PVC pipe.
The city could replace the compressors alone for $12,000, or it could replace both coolers for $150,000, which would include the compressors, too.
The Casper City Council budgeted for eight projects -- three top priority, five secondary priority -- for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that starts Monday, according to a memo form Parks and Recreation Director Tim Cortez to City Manager Carter Napier.
These are the top priority projects with budgeted amounts:
- Snow roof guards -- Snow and ice can accumulate on the roof and slide off in large amounts. The guards would reduce the size and probability of that happening. Allocation: $20,000 plus $45,000 carryover from Fiscal Year 2018-2019.
- Water and fire line replacement -- A section of a water line that broke last year requiring emergency repairs was found to be extreme corroded and located where utility workers are put at risk. The replacement would replace both water lines ot an area of the parking lot. Allocation: $308,000.
- Plumbing upgrades -- This project would identify the building's plumbing, most of which is original, in most need of repair. A recent plumbing break resulted in a large insurance claim. Allocation: $80,000.
Secondary priority projects with budgeted amounts:
- Theatrical curtain replacement -- The old and worn curtaining has been repaired repeatedly and is at a point where it cannot be treated and keep a fire rating. This project would replace the worst sections and apply fire retardant to the remaining good sections. Allocation: $69,000.
- Asphalt parking lots -- This project would fix the worst areas that have deteriorated to the point that further damage would rapidly drive up repair costs. More repairs will be needed later. Allocation: $200,000.
- Back lot fence -- Security for performers and equipment is necessary and often written into performance contracts. The back lot does not have fencing, which requires the Events Center to hire security personnel or rent fencing at the cost of $5,000 per rental. A fence would be a one-time expense and would reduce the need for security personnel. Allocation: $45,000.
- Walk-in cooler replacement -- The refrigeration equipment is original and failing: the compressors operate constantly to maintain temparatures and the structures are falling apart. Replacing them would save energy and provide more capacity. Allocation: $150,000.
- Cooler compressors -- Instead of total replacement, this would replace only the compressors and not the structures. If the coolers themselves are replaced, this project would be moot. Allocation: $12,000.
Council member Ken Bates objected to spending $45,000 for the security fence, saying the Events Center has rarely had to rent a fence.
Cortez said this would be a one-time expense, and pay for itself over a few years. Besides that, the city would save money by not having to provide security event personnel during events that sometimes last several days.
Mike Huber disagreed, saying the city has an obligation to provide security for everyone including the artists and the public.
Mayor Charlie Powell wondered if there were acts that looked at the lack of fencing and then not even bother coming to Casper.
He added that compared to a $1 million liability for the city if something bad happened, $45,000 was a bargain.