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Civic Center takes a 20/20 look at future

Click to enlarge Civic Center takes a 20/20 look at future

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A Central Carolina Community College, Lee County, and City of Sanford 20/20 Vision Committee has been ... (more)

Click to enlarge Civic Center takes a 20/20 look at future

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A 20/20 Vision Committee for the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center has been discussing the facility’s ... (more)

02.10.2012College & CommunityCollege General

SANFORD - Since 1991, the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center has been the prime Lee County location for personal, community, and business events, from family reunions to corporate conventions, according to David Foster, Civic Center director.

"The vision then was to serve the community in every way it could," Foster said. "The facility celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011, so it is time to focus on where the Civic Center is now and where we can and should take it in the future."

A 20/20 Vision Committee was established in mid-2011 to address that question. The committee includes representatives from Central Carolina Community College, Lee County, City of Sanford, and the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.

20/20 stands for the sharpness of vision the committee members want for the Center's future, while acknowledging the 20 years it has already served so well, Foster said.

Ophelia Livingston and Chet Mann, college trustees who co-chair the 20/20 Vision committee, presented a preliminary report on the committee's work to the college's board of trustees at its Feb. 8 meeting in the Civic Center. They said a business analysis of the facility is still to be done and will be presented when it is completed.

The committee has been looking at the primary purpose of the facility. Should it be an economic engine for the county, attracting events and organizations that bring in revenue and promote the county, or primarily a community resource - or a combination of both?

Currently, about 75 percent of the building's use is by local entities and only 25 percent by out-of-area users, Mann said. If the facility is to be an economic engine, those figures need to be reversed.

In preparing a strategy for the future of the Civic Center, the committee has taken a hard look at the physical condition of the facility, services provided, types of events attracted, and other areas of concern. Members also visited other centers around the state that are operated by community colleges to gather ideas for the DAWCC's future.

The committee carried out a "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats" (SWOT) analysis with local hoteliers to get their perspective on the facility. The hoteliers want the Civic Center to host events that attract visitors to stay overnight in town. Not only would it benefit the hotels, but also the local economy generally as visitors buy gas, eat at restaurants, and shop locally while here.

Livingston and Mann presented the committee's consensus on two options to improve the Civic Center for future use: renovation within the existing facility or upgrading with adding new construction to accommodate more users and types of usage with better space and equipment.

"For example, with more space and better equipment, the Civic Center could be the perfect spot for Fort Bragg meetings between Bragg and RDU," Mann said.

Livingston added that installing features for activities such as video conferencing would make the facility more attractive for corporate and government users.

Foster said after the meeting that the Civic Center is already booked up every Saturday through 2012, except one. Additional space would increase the number and variety of bookings and the revenue.

Board members discussed several options that included things such as upgrading and ways to make the facility more attractive and usable for a wider variety of events. Livingston and Mann said the committee will continue to research the project and present their findings to both the trustees and the Lee County Board of Commissioners.

In addition to Livingston, Mann and Foster, the Civic Center 20/20 Vision Committee is composed of CCCC President Bud Marchant, CCCC Vice President of Administrative Services Wayne Robinson, Lee County Commissioner Robert Reives, Lee County Manager John Crumpton, Sanford Mayor Pro-Tem Sam Gaskins, Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce, and former N.C. Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, namesake of the facility.