Bulk of proposed Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center operating costs would be paid by city

The city of Myrtle Beach and the arts community could share the more than $436,000 operating budget of a proposed performing arts center over a five-year period, with the city providing the bulk of the money.

City staff and members of the arts community, during a City Council workshop Tuesday, presented the proposed agreement that would be established between the city and the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center board, where the arts community and the Myrtle Beach Convention Center staff both would manage the facility.

“It would be a partnership between the city and the performing arts center group,” said assistant city manager John Pedersen.

The facilities would be connected by the 35,000-square-foot arts center’s pre-function hallway and be built on the footprint of the convention center’s current handicapped parking lot.

Each year the operating budget is projected to increase, costing $446,500 to run the facility by the fifth year of the agreement. In its first year, $275,252 of that money would come from the city with the remaining $160,770 being paid by the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center board.

The convention center would hire a technical director who would work for both the convention center and the performing arts center. Other city expenses would include all utilities, maintenance and repairs, janitorial products and paying for insurance for the theater and its contents.

The arts board would hire an executive director and administrative assistant and be responsible for marketing costs. The board also would have to pay a monthly office space rent to the convention center.

“Most of the revenue would be dictated by the number of events,” Pedersen said, adding that in its first year its projected that the facility would have 36 events, which could increase to 50 by its fifth year.

Projected revenue included in the budget was based on a 65 percent occupancy for the facility’s events.

Steve Usry of Usry, Wolfe, Peterson, Doyle – who designed the facility – said the center was designed to hold 700 seats to maximize on revenues through ticket sales while not sacrificing space in the pre-function hallway or lobby.

City Council is expected to make a decision about construction of the $10 million facility during its annual budget retreat next week.

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

As proposed, the venue would have an auditorium of 700 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.

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 also may pay for some of the operating costs, with the arts community being asked to provide the difference.

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 increase property taxes would be next fiscal year, which begins July 1, and that is when homeowners would see the increase.

Usry said if council returned from budget retreat and gave the green light, it would take 14 to 16 months to construct the performing arts center.