Cody Auditorium - Sober Without Sprinklers | Big Horn Radio Network | Wyoming

Cody Auditorium – Sober Without Sprinklers

Written by on February 2, 2021

The Cody Auditorium can’t host events with alcoholic beverages until an expensive automatic sprinkler system is installed – but what’s more costly for Cody?

For decades, the Cody Auditorium has been the go-to location for large parties, fundraisers, and other events. Now, those events aren’t prohibited – but they are under prohibition.

Under the International Fire Code, the Cody Auditorium is classified under Group A2 – a banquet hall with a capacity of 300 people. For a venue in that group with that capacity, serving alcohol is prohibited unless the venue is equipped with an automatic fire extinguisher system –  something the auditorium doesn’t have.

“Any event can be held in the building – you just can’t serve alcohol,” says Cody City Administrator Barry Cook.

The need for a sprinkler system isn’t news to the city – Cody Fire Marshal Sam Wilde has given the city a two-year grace period to at least financially commit to a sprinkler system. In the name of safety and compliance, that leniency will not be extended another year.

Estimates to install an automatic sprinkler system in Cody Auditorium quote a cost of over $100,000.

That amount has not been allocated by the Cody City Council over the past several years. A solution to solve the problem and install the costs was rejected by Cody’s voters: the general-purpose tax on the 2020 Election ballot.

“It was on the resolution for the general-purpose tax – $100 thousand plus for the sprinkler system,” Cook said.

Cook acknowledges that several prominent events are held in the Cody Auditorium – the Buffalo Bill Birthday Bash, Soroptimist’s Wine Tasting, CASA’s Taste of Park County. But costs are not being offset by revenues – it only costs $675 to rent the auditorium, Cody Club Room, meeting rooms, and kitchen for a single event.

On average, events at the auditorium bring in anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000.

Operating costs for the Cody Auditorium during Cody’s current fiscal year – July 2020-2021 – will be over $130,000.

Those costs mainly cover salaries for maintenance and janitorial staff. Other costs include safety inspections, maintaining systems for heating, cooling, and plumbing, and staff to set up for events in the space.

That’s a lot of money for a few drinks.

This might make an appropriation in next year’s budget a hard sell for the Cody City Council, which has historically been conservative with its funding.

So, what options are available?

If the Cody City Council decides an automatic sprinkler system in Cody Auditorium is a priority, there are two courses of action they could pursue: adding the cost into the city budget or dipping into the city’s reserves. Both are fraught with their own complications.

An addition to the budget would mean cutting other programs in the city, most likely from the Cody Department of Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities. The city has $2 million in its reserves, but that is designed to support Cody in a potential emergency situation, not to cover current costs.

There is one other option – selling the auditorium.

“Some cities across the country have sold their auditoriums to private businesses,” Cook explains. “When private businesses install a sprinkler system, they get a tax credit. Governments do not.  So, a lot of (these facilities) are sold to private businesses to maintain and operate, and they can make that kind of investment.”

None of these options have been discussed by the Cody City Council, and nobody is currently advocating for a private sale. But with budget cuts on the local and state levels looming, any option could be on the table.

So, what does this mean for Cody Auditorium in the meantime?

“It’s status quo right now – just to maintain the building without any alcohol,” Cook says.

Cody Auditorium

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