JCC feasibility study: multipurpose facility will add value to county

A proposed $44.5 million multipurpose facility may replace the county-owned Whispering Pines nursing home on Coffeen Street.

Jefferson Community College’s highly anticipated multipurpose facility feasibility study, outlining the potential project’s risks and rewards, has finally been unveiled.

According to the study, a new $44.5 million facility where the county-owned Whispering Pines nursing home stands on Coffeen Street would be financially feasible and add value to the area, good news to the county and the community college.

“It’s exciting,” said JCC President Carole A. McCoy. “The other day, I said something about taking it from feasibility to reality.”

The results of the $40,000 feasibility study were presented to representatives of the Jefferson Community College Foundation, Watertown Local Development Corp. and Jefferson County and Northern New York Community Foundation — the parties who funded the study — by Paradigm Economics on Thursday, according to a released statement.

Paradigm Economics, Buffalo, was first asked to conduct the study in June. In addition to interviewing local officials and foundations, company representatives visited comparable facilities at community colleges and universities in the area, such as SUNY Canton and Onondaga Community College.

Paradigm has worked on and off on various event center projects in Watertown since 1999, starting with plans for a convention center, then a giant domed event center for the town of Watertown. In 2007, Paradigm warned town officials the dome project, annually, would break even at best.

“It was supposed to take three months,” Mrs. McCoy said. “It’s very comprehensive. It just took more than they thought. We’re just happy to have it.”

She wanted to thank Paradigm Economics for preparing the study.

The proposed facility would include “a $12.3 million higher education center, $7 million field house and $25 million events center,” according to a released statement.

Although the study showed Watertown does not have a dense population, the pull from Fort Drum families and college students makes an events center worth building.

Another risk the study highlighted was the winter weather conditions the north country often endures. The study also described Jefferson County as “‘off the beaten path’ of touring entertainment.”

The study suggested the $44.3 million project will have an overall economic impact of $54,591,408 from construction. More than 250 employees would be tied directly or indirectly just to the building stage. Annual operating revenue could reach more than $2 million a year.

Additionally, a major musician or trade show might lead to tourists spending the night in a local hotel or restaurant, a boon for the economy.

A new facility would also benefit JCC greatly, Mrs. McCoy said, giving the college a coveted 34,000 square feet of new classroom space. Because of the constant enrollment growth, she said space is “very, very tight.”

“We’ll be able to expand our higher education center to expand our four-year and master’s programs for us to grow,” Mrs. McCoy said.

She added students who major in subjects such as hospitality and tourism or sports management could get hands-on experience if the project goes through.

Although she has had time to think ahead, she said there is work to be done before a new complex can be built next to the college on Coffeen Street, where Whispering Pines is scheduled to close, possibly in the spring.

“To me, the next step is to start talking about it as a community,” Mrs. McCoy said. “We as Jefferson County need to figure out exactly what we want and where we want to go with this. After that, we’ll find a way to fund it.”

The study can be found at www.sunyjefferson.edu.

-Reena Singh, Watertown Daily Times staff writer