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(OPINION) The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins (7/5/24)

Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins (City of Cheyenne)

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I hope everyone had a great Independence Day. Judy loves the fireworks show put on by the City and Cheyenne Frontier Days. We love finding a place to park and watching from the car. For so many of us it is all about getting family together for a barbeque and fellowship. However you celebrated, I hope it was fun. A reminder: Two years from now we will be celebrating our nation’s 250th birthday. We are already starting the planning and are looking for ideas from the community that we can incorporate in what I hope will be an epic month of celebrations. Please reach out if you have ideas.

I ran out of room last week to share about my visit to the Cheyenne Artist Guild. The Guild is in the historic Carriage Barn from the Van Tassell estate in Holiday Park. I came to read a proclamation but found myself walking around the gallery so impressed by the skill of our local art community. The Guild has been mentoring our local art community since 1949. I love how I get invited to so many different groups and events. I appreciate all they do for our community. The Cheyenne Artist Guild is a shining example.

Our Capitol Avenue Bronze Project has blown up. I dreamed we might get 28 bronzes: a bronze on every corner from the Capitol to the Depot by the end of my term in office. Today we have 68 bronzes all over our downtown. Harvey Deselms hosted an unveiling of our next two bronzes. One is a cute bronze of turtles on a log that I think would fit great on 17th Street, where we have a collection of animals. The other is a doctor and nurse that will be displayed in front of the hospital. The amazing thing about this wonderful project is every bronze has been donated to the city and I believe they are making a remarkable impact on our public art scene. Thanks to everyone who has worked to bring this dream to reality.

Speaking of public art, Friday afternoon we dedicated a huge bronze of a cowgirl riding a bronc next to the Chris LeDoux bronze in Frontier Park. The Year of the Cowgirl is the theme for this year’s Frontier Days. Susan Samuelson commented a couple of years ago that cowgirls were an important part of our western heritage, and she and husband Doug started the design. Brian and Peaches Tyrell pitched in, and the bronze is an amazing addition to the CFD Frontier Park. Thanks, you guys, for this amazing gift to our community and for the inspiration for this year’s theme.

Pride Cheyenne’s Street Fest 2024 was held on Saturday on 15th Street. This was the second year, and it was huge. Blocks of music, food, vendors, art, a dog costume contest, and people having a blast. Judy and I had a great lunch and enjoyed spending time visiting with the huge crowd. It was nice to see the businesses on 15th Street open and keeping busy. I especially appreciated the Chamber of Commerce ordered a perfect Cheyenne day.

We have been talking about the big changes coming to the Belvoir Ranch, especially the new trail system currently under construction. The contractor is ahead of schedule, and the trails are really coming together. We should be able to use the trails sometime next summer. We still must build the access road, trailhead, bathrooms, and parking lot, and finish the 17 miles of trails. I met this week with a team of city staff to continue the discussion on managing the trail system once we open them to the public. I am so excited we will finally open the ranch to the public after 21 years of city ownership.

Another first for me as mayor. At a press conference held at the CFD Events Center, I got to make the announcement that Meta is coming to Cheyenne. They have broken ground on a 715,000-square-foot data center that will see an $800 million investment in our community and create 100 great-paying jobs. There will be over 1,000 skilled laborers building the data center over the next two years. I shared that economic development requires patience. LEADS has been working with Meta for over five years, and this announcement is a huge accomplishment for Betsey and her team. The city negotiated a development agreement with Meta, and I want to publicly thank Stefanie, Charles, Tom, Brad, and Frank for the hundreds of hours they invested getting this deal to yes. So proud of the teams here in Cheyenne who work so well together and for the transformative successes that have happened because of it.

Kelly took me for a tour of the Historic Atlas Theater. I am scheduled to MC the Melodrama later this month and a tour will help me tell the Atlas’ story. The theater is the third building to stand at that location. When it was built in 1887, Cheyenne was one of the wealthiest per capita cities in the world. Unfortunately, the blizzard of 1889 put an end to that when the cattle herds were lost. It started as a tea and confectionary shop with offices and a hotel upstairs. The theater was added and opened to the public in 1908. The original asbestos fire curtain was restored by the folks who helped restore the State Capitol. It looks amazing. Since the 1970s it has been owned by the Cheyenne Little Theater Players and is home to the Old-fashioned Melodrama. If you haven’t visited the theater lately, you will be so impressed by the amount of work and restoration the team has put into the first floor of the building and the theater. It is a jewel for the arts in Cheyenne. I put on a hard hat and toured the two upper floors. They need a lot of love, but they are beautiful with great light and a feel of nostalgia. CLTP are starting the community discussion as to what the upper floors should be used for. It will take a lot of time and money, but I know this group will get it done.

I spent a lot of time on Wednesday working on two interim topics I asked the Corporations Committee to discuss over the summer. I appreciate John in our Attorney’s office for helping me understand the complexity of both topics. The first is an effort to allow the city to build a utility-scale solar farm on our closed landfill on Happy Jack Road. The land has sat idle since the 1960s and you really can’t develop it. Solar panels would bring the area some economic benefit to the city. The second topic is to allow affordable housing projects to use the urban renewal tools to incentivize more affordable housing to be built in Cheyenne and across our state. Amber and I met with Josh Anderson from the Legislative Service Office to share our vision on both bills. The Corporations Committee will be working on these topics this summer. Fingers crossed they will sponsor both ideas for the upcoming legislative session.

The year is half over and the time has flown by. Time to get your boots polished and ready — CFD is just a couple of weeks away. Hoping my jeans will fit this year. Haha!