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The construction of an amphitheater is underway in Gillette that will host a religious gathering

Camporee amphitheater groundbreaking
Hugh Cook
/
Wyoming Public Media
Heavy earthmoving equipment begin the process of leveling land near the Cam-plex facilities that an amphitheater will be constructed on.

The construction of an amphitheater broke ground on Nov. 21 on county owned property in preparation for the 2024 International Pathfinder Camporee, a large gathering of members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that’s held every five years. Gillette will host the event in 2029 as well. It was announced that Gillette had been chosen to host the event in January 2021, which has been held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin since 1999.

“The Camporee has talked about selling 55,000 seats, or 55,000 tickets. Now that's not all youth, that's adults, that's their entire organizational effort, and so they're planning on facilitating all of those ticket holders there at the amphitheater,” said Aaron Lyles, Director of the Cam-plex.

Commonly known as Camporee, attendees from over 100 countries are expected to attend, which will also rent all other Cam-plex facilities in addition to other Campbell County Land Board-overseen properties, such as an equestrian park, an archery range, a motocross track, and an RC airport. Participants take part in different activities such as camping, learning outdoor skills, attending Bible classes, and undertaking community service projects for the week long event.

Lyles said that the city and county weren’t actively soliciting Camporee to come to Gillette, but that Camporee leadership inquired about having Camporee hosted in Gillette.

Currently, the land that is being graded for the amphitheater is undeveloped and is next to Cam-plex Park on the east side of Gillette. It’s expected to be completed by mid-January.

“When you think of amphitheater, I think folks think of Red Rocks, and I think that perhaps one of the challenges that we've had in terms of communication on the front end of this is that as soon as we started talking amphitheater, the general public would assume a fixed permanent stage up front--and that wasn't ever part of what these plans were,” Lyles said. “They're building the infrastructure underground and creating a level field, if you will for the audience [seating] portion, and then planning to bring in all of the event [equipment], staging, and all of that to the area where the power is at and setting that up independently."

Cam-plex amphitheater overlay
Cam-plex

Lyles, who was only hired three weeks ago as director, wants to see other uses for the amphitheater as well. The goal for the Cam-plex is to have the facility used more than just once.

“While the focus has been on the massive influx of individuals to the community and how are we going to manage that influx and address it through infrastructure, there's also sort of the undiscussed portion that there could be annual camporees utilizing the space on a fairly regular basis,” Lyles said.

The City of Gillette and Campbell County have allocated a total of $1.5 million for the amphitheater, though initial projections indicated that it will come in under budget. However, if any cost overruns are to occur, the landlord is responsible for finding funding to cover the additional expenses. Camporee is paying the Cam-plex $250,000 for each of the 2024 and 2029 events in addition to utilities and trash expenses.

Lyles said there are a lot of misconceptions about the facility and Camporee.

“I think it's important for us here at Cam-plex to understand how we can activate that space and make sure that the investment that's been agreed to make all this happen be leveraged as best we can make it happen,” he said.

Another point of misconception is what the impacts that tens of thousands of people will have on the community.

“In my very first conversations with Camporee leadership, it is not going to be exclusively contained to Cam-plex in terms of the economic impact,” Lyles said. “I think that was one of the concerns is why would we make these investments in Camporee if it's going to be entirely contained within the walls of Cam-plex, and I can tell you that they, the Camporee team is making many, many contracts with entities within our region, for providing resources to the site. But also, a lot of effort is being made making sure that the youth and the adult volunteers and their service corps that comes with it, are actually out in the community doing good works, being a good partner in the community.”

Camporee is set to take place Aug. 5-11, 2024, and Aug. 6-12, 2029.

Updated: November 28, 2022 at 11:27 AM MST
This story has been updated to include an overlay that showcases where the amphitheater is slated to be built and what it encompasses.
Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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