Future still unclear for Myrtle Beach performing arts center

Members of the performing arts center board will have to continue to wait for a decision from the Myrtle Beach City Council about the construction and operation of a new facility.

After receiving a bleak outlook on the budget from staff members on Sunday that included a recommendation to institute a $125 fee to use Chapin Memorial Library, some City Council members on Monday were hesitant to contribute funds to the operation of a new performing arts center. Council members on Monday said it was unlikely they would impose a library subscription fee.

By the end of a discussion Monday at the city’s annual budget retreat, council members were unable to decide if they would move forward with constructing the proposed $10 million performing arts center.

Almost 54 percent of Myrtle Beach voters in November supported a 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.

Last week, staff and the arts community presented a proposed agreement that would be established between the city and the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center board in which the arts community and the Myrtle Beach Convention Center staff both would manage the facility.

Under the agreement as proposed, the city of Myrtle Beach and the arts community would share the more than $436,000 operating budget of the performing arts center over a five-year period, according to the agreement.

Even with both groups sharing responsibility for funding the facility’s operations, however, there would be a shortfall of about $100,000 in the center’s fifth year.

“Right now we’re having trouble finding $800,000, and we’re talking about adding another $100K to the amount?” Councilman Mike Lowder said. “I think we need to take what we’ve got and get where we can service it before we [build the facility].”

Even if the council chooses to construct the facility this year, the city could not have to finance operational costs until the building opened. Steve Usry of Usry, Wolfe, Peterson, Doyle – who designed the facility – said it would take 14 to 16 months to construct the arts center.

Councilman Randal Wallace suggested delaying the construction for two years until the city was in better financial shape.

“They’ve been waiting 20 years, I don’t see what two more is going to do,” he said.

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.

But Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said the operational costs wouldn’t be imposed for two years so she thought the bonds should be purchased this year and construction should begin.

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.