The proposed downtown plaza is on schedule to be open for events a year from now, the director of the Downtown Development Authority said Tuesday.

Kevin Hawley told the Casper City Council during a work session that more than half the funding is in  place for the approximately $6.5 million project.

State funding is part of that total, but the recent discussions about budget shortfalls won't affect the plaza, Hawley said.

"The queasiness with the state budget will not affect what we're doing," he said after the work session. The Wyoming Business Council recently awarded the project d $500,000 in a community enhancement grant.

Earlier this year, the city committed up to $3 million in Optional Sales Tax No. 14 revenues, he added.

The Downtown Development Authority also expects to raise another $3 million in private funds from the community, Hawley said. The DDA is applying to foundations and for grants locally and even out of state.

The project will proceed even if the DDA does not receive the $3 million from private sources, he added.

The site will be cleared during the winter and construction will begin next spring, Hawley said. Two parking lots and three buildings will be demolished to make way for the plaza: the building occupied by the DDA, a state office building, and an automotive shop.

The DDA wants the plaza to be ready a year from now for the holiday season. Even if won't be ready until spring of 2017, it will still be on time for the tens of thousands of visitors expected to come to Casper in August to view the total eclipse of the sun.

Hawley and the DDA describe the plaza as an "events-driven" location.

"What you're going to see is an opportunity for families to come down for free or low-cost entertainment," he said. "One of the things we're going to incorporate is a splash pad for kids so water shooting out of the ground with different colors and music and kids can go run through and play and laugh and smile."

A band shell will feature live music and entertainment, plus a drop-down monitor for movies, Hawley added.

The green space in front of the band shell will be converted into an ice rink during the winter.

The plaza also will have farmer's markets, sales, bazaars, he said. "If you can dream it, we're going to have it here."

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