Almost four years after voters approved the idea of constructing a performing arts center, Myrtle Beach staff highlighted three possible options for the theater Friday.
“I think I’d be happy with any of them,” said Paul Edwards, general manager of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and a member of the group making recommendations on the plans.
The plans for a complex behind the Myrtle Beach Sports Center were presented without the names of the firms that penned them, as city staff attempted to sort them on their merits. Myrtle Beach received multiple bids, requesting a complex that combines both an indoor theater and an outdoor amphitheater, with the stipulation that the project top out at $9.8 million.
The top-ranked proposal is a 29,920-square-foot building with a 2700-square-foot indoor performance stage, 600 indoor seats, an orchestra pit for 20 musicians, a black-box theater, rehearsal hall and an outdoor stage of 2,240 square feet. Grading, drainage and hydroseeding for a grass audience area behind the outdoor stage is included, but other amenities for the amphitheater would have to be constructed at additional cost.
The building fronts on Burroughs & Chapin Boulevard, a new road that Myrtle Beach is in the process of constructing.
Larry Bragg, the head of the Community Appearance Board and one of the three men ranking the plans, called the design “breathtaking.” The building includes a large facade with tilted, angled panels rising from the its roof.
“For better or worse, it would become an instant icon for the city,” Bragg said.
Edwards, Bragg and Ron Andrews, the head of the committee making recommendations, praised all three plans.
A runner-up offered similarly sized indoor and outdoor stages, significantly more parking and opened to the pond on the property, which the committee praised. But the group expressed hesitance about the stipulation to use a third-party promoter to both fund and run the amphitheater.
The third-ranked proposal did not include an outdoor stage in its base offering, instead creating a “special-event lawn” that would be shared with the sports center. Edwards said the building might be better off with a site further from the sports center, and Andrews said the planned access to the site, which ran through the other facility’s property, could cause some security issues.
City officials said they did not expect every item on their “wish list,” which included several features for the indoor and outdoor performance spaces, would be included in each proposal.
“We knew we couldn’t get everything we wanted in the performing arts center and the amphitheater [for $9.8 million], but we told the architects and the builders to give us as much as we could get,” Andrews said.
City Attorney Tom Ellenburg advised attendees of the meeting, mostly comprised of local architects and builders, that they should avoid contacting council members directly about their plans. Any individual contact would have to be disclosed, he said.
“Let’s let this thing work all the way through and have (it) work openly and transparently,” he said.
The process to construct an arts center began in earnest when city residents approved a referendum in November 2013 to purchase $10 million in bonds to build it. The city has a five-year deadline to secure that debt, however.
Now, the committee’s recommendation will be presented to City Manager John Pedersen, who will then bring the ranking to City Council. That panel could move forward with the recommendation, it could choose to do nothing, or it could choose a plan that was not included in the top three.
“Our review may or may not have full value in the process. We’ve taken it seriously and we take this thing council gave to us as a serious effort,” Andrews said.