A local arts organization wants to build a world-class performing and visual arts center adjacent to three Cave Creek schools.
But at least one school leader has concerns over plans to serve alcohol at the facility, which would operate on leased school district land.
The Sonoran Desert Center for the Arts, a Carefreebased nonprofit group, wants to build an "arts village" in the foothills by 2009.
This village, says the group’s chairman Arch Rambeau, would include a performing arts hall to seat 2,000, a recital hall, classrooms and galleries — all interspersed with sculptures, gardens and pathways covering 40 acres.
It’s going to be a worldclass facility, Rambeau said, so it needs a restaurant and lounge.
"World-renowned centers have the ability for patrons to have dinner before or after, and it requires a liquor license," Rambeau said.
That worries Stephanie Reese, a Cave Creek Unified School District governing board member
Reese was the lone dissenting voice last week when the board voted to let residents decide on leasing the land next to district headquarters.
"It’s in the very center of our schools, with a high school and a middle school by it," she said before voting against the measure.
She also expressed concern over possibly having to move around other district buildings to create road access to the project.
Cave Creek residents will vote on the lease plan in November.
The liquor license does not bother governing board member Marvin Christensen.
"It certainly would not be a western bar in the middle of the school district out there," he said. "What I envision is a nice restaurant and people would be allowed to buy wine or alcohol while they are eating."
He also pointed out the school district would not be involved in any of the operations of the restaurant or center — it would just lease the land.
The liquor license issue is not up for debate, Rambeau said. He has a responsibility to the center’s patrons, who would be donating between $60 million and $80 million dollars, to make the project as financially viable as possible, he said.
"It requires a liquor license, so if that’s not feasible for these people then we will go somewhere else," Rambeau said.
Christensen doesn’t want to see that happen.
He believes having a world-class arts center in the schools’ back yard would be a great inspiration for students, in part because it could attract artists-in-residence.
"This would be tremendous asset for the entire community," he said.