The Sedona Cultural Park – Rising From The Ashes?
By Mayor Rob Adams
Sedona AZ (May 21, 2013) – One of the most frequent questions that I have been asked during the last several years is, “What is the status of the Sedona Cultural Park?” In order to answer that question, I would like to provide you with a brief history
Originally the 50.2 acre Cultural Park property was National Forest. It was designated as “Open Space Preservation/Conservation on the Community Plan Land Use map. In 1993, the Land Use Map was amended to “Public/Semi-public” for the Sedona Cultural Park, specifically to accommodate community cultural facility amenities. At that time, the Sedona Community Plan supported USFS land trades only for public/semipublic uses, parks or open spaces. Following a Community Plan amendment, a land trade was subsequently completed.
In 1995, the Cultural Park property was rezoned to Planned Development to accommodate the proposed uses for the Cultural Park. These uses included an outdoor amphitheater, a festival grounds and parking. In a future phase, other amenities were to include an Arts Village, a Performing Arts Facility and Exhibition buildings. In 1997 and 2001, the Park sold 6 acres of land to Yavapai College.
The Grand Opening of the Cultural Park was held in May of 2000 and the first concert season began. The Park was operated as a non-profit and managed by the Sedona Cultural Park Board of Directors.
Concurrently with the opening of the Park, a combination of events spelled out the Cultural Park’s demise. First, there was not a plan for the financial sustainability of the Park. There was no economic engine, and the Park had to rely on constant fundraising and philanthropy for revenue. The board had a substantial loan to service and a cost/revenue analysis of the operations of the park had not been done. Second, the large and cumbersome Board of Directors had difficulty reaching consensus in a timely manner on critical issues. Third, a restrictive operational plan was formed to accommodate the concerns of the surrounding neighborhoods. This plan included restrictions on sound, lighting, traffic and the number of events that could be held at the Park. The Park could only hold a specified number of events per year that had to conclude by ten in the evening. There were problems with controlling the noise and lighting that musical events produced. Additionally, the parking areas were on a dirt surface and dust control became difficult.
The Cultural Park was open from 2000 until 2003 and was finally forced into bankruptcy. Since that time, the Park property has been in escrow on three different occasions. Each of these escrows has failed to consummate and the Park property is now controlled under the original ownership of SATHCUPA (Save the Cultural Park).
I have been advocating for the development of the Cultural Park for the last seven years. The City Council approved a Community Plan Amendment for Fitch Industries, who had the property in escrow at the time for the southern half of the property in 2006. That developer filed for bankruptcy in 2008 as a consequence of the economic downturn and the Cultural Park property has fallen into disrepair.
On April 30, I finally had the opportunity and the pleasure of facilitating a meeting between Mr. Mike Tennyson, owner of the Cultural Park property; Dr. Penny Wills, President of Yavapai College; Tim Ernster, Sedona City Manager; and myself. During this meeting, we discussed the challenges that Yavapai College faces with parking for their present Sedona campus and the difficulties of expansion. Mr. Tennyson was very receptive to working with Yavapai College to resolve their challenges.
We also discussed the future of the Cultural Park. Mr. Tennyson expressed willingness and a desire to work with the city to create a new development plan for the Park property. The meeting was extremely productive and a number of exciting ideas were discussed. Mr. Tennyson will be meeting with Community Development staff in the near future. He is also in contact with local architects and civil engineers to begin the process of creating a development plan.
At this point, we do not know what the specific components of the future development might be. The process will take time and many negotiations will take place. The good news is the iconic piece of property called the Sedona Cultural Park may be rising from the ashes.
The views and comments I have made are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the City Council or the City of Sedona.