Myrtle Beach, performing arts community likely would share costs of operating new facility

04/04/2014 4:10 PM

04/04/2014 4:12 PM

Members of the arts community are working with Myrtle Beach city staff to determine how much it would cost to operate a proposed $10 million performing arts center and who will pay for it. City staff and members of the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center board are expected to present a budget to City Council on April 22, days before council members will head to their annual budget retreat, which is scheduled for April 27 to 29 in Pinopolis.

“That is going to be the discussion at the retreat,” city manager Tom Leath said of the financial requirements of running what would be a 35,000-square-foot expansion to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. “How are we going to pay for the operating piece? We’re trying to get some good, solid operating numbers together … and of that total, what would the city be responsible for and what would the [arts community] be responsible for.”

For at least 15 years, arts supporters have tried to establish a performance venue in Myrtle Beach. After being unable to raise about $2.5 million to partially fund building the center with help from the city, board members asked City Council in 2012 to completely pay for the construction. Depending on the final numbers in the operating budget, the city may also pay for some of the operating costs, with the arts community being asked to provide the difference.

Penny Boling, co-chairwoman of the performing arts board, said she feels confident in the arts community’s ability to raise money to operate the facility.

“We cannot go out and raise funds or get [corporate] sponsorships, donations and pledges until we get the stamp of approval [from city council],” Boling said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable [doing that] until we get the stamp of approval.”

Almost 54 percent of Myrtle Beach voters in November supported the referendum that allows the city to purchase $10 million in bonds to build a performing arts center near the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The referendum passed 1,915 to 1,641.

The City Council is not obligated to build the facility just because voters supported the referendum. The city needed the OK from voters to exceed the city’s debt limit, as set by the state, to finance $10 million in bonds that would take the city above that debt limit.

If the council approves purchasing the bonds, residents of an owner-occupied residential property would have to pay about $10 more per year on a $100,000 home, according to the referendum.

Owners of second homes, commercial property, automobiles and other taxable properties, such as boats, also would see an increase ranging from $26.25 per $100,000 of assessed manufacturing and utility property to $3 per $20,000 of assessed automobile value.

The earliest City Council could issue the bonds and increase property taxes would be next fiscal year, which begins July 1, and that is when homeowners would see the increase.

Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means has always supported bringing a performing arts center to Myrtle Beach and said she believes the council will move forward with the project.

The proposed venue would have an auditorium of 500 to 600 fixed seats, a fully-equipped performance stage, a smaller theater with an additional 80 to 120 seats, back-of-the house and support space, professional offices and public pre-function areas. The bonds would pay for construction as well as architectural and engineering fees.

Means said because the venue would be a city facility, it would not only hold arts-related events.

“There are certain dates that would be earmarked for the arts usage,” Means said. “At other times, if we had a convention that could go into a smaller venue, it could be used for that.”

Convention center General Manager Paul Edwards said maintenance crews and security officers on his staff likely would also work in the performing arts facility – which is expected to be connected by the center’s pre-function hallway. He said the new performing arts facility might require a few additional employees.

“The city can make sure it’s taken care of as far as maintenance- and security-wise,” Edwards said. “That’s going to be our responsibility. We are able to add that on without [significantly] increasing our costs.”

If built, the new venue could hold performances by groups such as the Carolina Master Chorale, the Long Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra and dance troupes.

Jamie Broadhurst, a member of the performing arts board, said once construction on the facility is approved, the group will begin marketing and promotion to fill the venue with arts performances.

He said he envisions about 20 performances – with a mix of touring and local shows – in the facility’s first year, which Boling said she hoped could be as soon as spring 2016.

“I see the end in sight,” she said.

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