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Paul Smith's College keeps VIC open, thriving

Vision for the VIC

"We want this to be a place where people come over and over again," said Sweeney, who is a member of the VIC Transition Steering Committee.

Steering Committee members have adopted four guiding principles to help them plan public and private usage of the Paul Smiths VIC: 1.) linkage to academic mission; 2.) public access; 3.) collaboration with arts and cultural organizations; and 4.) entrepreneurial opportunities. (See pullout box).

When making plans, "We are always coming back to our four guiding principles," Sweeney said. "It keeps us focused."

Steering Committee members see the college's takeover of the VIC as an opportunity to do something bigger and better than the APA did. Throughout the APA's ownership of the VIC, many thought there was room for improvement.

"It never met its potential under state operation," said Paul Smith's College President John Mills, sitting in the Great Room during the Jan. 29 Chili Ski Tasting event. "Our goal is to reach that potential."

Challenges

Mills and his staff members are excited about running the VIC and keeping it open to the public. At the same time, they are being honest about the challenges they face.

"Our No. 1 challenge is paying for it," Mills said. "They (the public) don't realize how much it costs just to keep the lights on."

Mills said he wasn't sure how much money it will take to operate the VIC, adding that there are more costs associated with the VIC acquisition than most people realize. The college, for example, has already hired one full-time VIC maintenance person and purchased a new four-wheeler to maintain the trails, and it will spend about $20,000 to fix the roof.

To help the college monitor the financial health of the building, the VIC will be set up as a free-standing auxiliary enterprise. In order for the college to reach the building's potential, it will take a business model that requires a mix of rental income, revenue from programs and events, and a lot of community support. There have already been requests for weddings and parties at the VIC, and Burke is planning some trail-running competitions, such as the Jenkins Mountain Scramble and Half Marathon in June.

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