Orem’s 2017 CARE grants include library auditorium, SCERA Shell studies

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Orem city owns the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre.

Orem’s library auditorium addition, once called the Center for Story, may be getting closer to reality. This week, the Orem City Council voted to give the project nearly $35,000 in CARE tax funds to move the plan along.

The city will use the money to update plans with engineers and architects, and to look at different options, said Steven Downs, Orem spokesman.  “We want to come to a conclusion about what we’re going to do.”

The project started as the Center for Story about a decade ago. That plan was for a space that would contain Timpanogos Storytelling Festival offices, an auditorium, art gallery, and more. The plan now is an auditorium for the library for special events and programs, which will be large enough for at least the next 20 to 30 years, Downs said.

Orem’s had money sitting in the bank, including a large donation from Karen Ashton, founder of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, CARE tax funds, and money from Utah County, ready to use for construction.

Downs said it’s at the point where construction costs are rising faster than the money’s collecting interest. So the city needs to decide what to do.

“We hope to make a decision quickly,” he said.

“We want to do an overall assessment and put out a plan of what to do … painting a vision for what the SCERA Shell will be 10 to 20 years down the road.” — Steven Downs, Orem spokesman

In addition to the library auditorium project, the council voted to give about $45,000 to assess the state of the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre. The city owns the facility, and leases it to the SCERA organization for $1 per year, for 100 years.

“It’s an asset that’s aging, and since we ultimately are the ones that own it, like any landlord of a rental unit, we want to make sure that it’s being kept up, that enough money is being dedicated to it so it continues to stay viable,” Downs said.

One of the things the city will assess is whether to add permanent seating, he said. Right now, lawn chairs with the backs removed — so they fit evenly — are used for seating on the hill. If the city adds fixed seating, though, it will take up more space. But it might provide a better experience for concert-goers.

“We want to provide a venue that will attract the best talent,” Downs said.

Other cities have added amphitheaters, including Sandy, since the SCERA Shell was built. Orem officials will look at those as part of the assessment.

“We want to do an overall assessment and put out a plan of what to do … painting a vision for what the SCERA Shell will be 10 to 20 years down the road,” he said.

In addition to the money for the SCERA Shell and library auditorium, the city council allocated the rest of the approximately $2 million in CARE tax funds, which come from a 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax, for the year. Some highlights include:

  • $1,009,625 to the Orem Fitness Center for future improvements
  • $525,000 to the SCERA
  • $315,000 to Hale Center Theater Orem
  • $20,0000 to Utah Regional Ballet
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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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