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Clock ticking on bonds for new performing arts center, amphitheater

Exploring site of proposed Myrtle Beach performing arts center, amphitheater

Myrtle Beach Convention Center Director Paul Edwards talks about plans for proposed performing arts center and amphitheater on the site of the joint facility on March 17, 2016.
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Myrtle Beach Convention Center Director Paul Edwards talks about plans for proposed performing arts center and amphitheater on the site of the joint facility on March 17, 2016.

The clock is ticking on an expiring voter-approved bond referendum to fund a performing arts center before 2018, making the project a potential priority in next year’s budget.

A joint performing arts center and amphitheater that could seat upwards of 16,000 guests was delayed last year by an economic impact study and a parking issue that may now be resolved.

Myrtle Beach City Council members expressed concerns about parking at a budget retreat last April after hearing there needed to be about 3,000 dedicated parking spaces to accommodate the facility.

“We have 2,050 spaces here,” said Myrtle Beach Convention Center Director Paul Edwards, standing at the site of the proposed facility near the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.

Edwards said the city would choose dates for performing arts center and amphitheater venues that wouldn’t conflict with other events at the center.

“As far as additional parking, what I tried to do was identify parking that was less than a mile away for walking,” Edwards said. “We own Pelicans stadium. That’s right at 1,000 spaces over there.”

He said they also talked to Broadway at the Beach owner Burroughs & Chapin Co. about utilizing 500 spaces at Broadway during big events and at another B&C lot near the site that hosts 300 spaces.

As far as additional parking, what I tried to do was identify parking that was less than a mile away for walking.

Paul Edwards, director of Myrtle Beach Convention Center

More parking options were found at the city-owned Doug Shaw Stadium, he said, adding the site is less than a mile away, and at the former Myrtle Square Mall. Nearby businesses could also rent out spaces to earn money during big events, bringing extra revenue to businesses or civic groups.

With the parking issue seemingly resolved, Edwards said, they found the new performing arts center and amphitheater could create extra jobs during events, boost tourism and create an economic boom for the city.

Arts supporters have tried to establish a performance venue in Myrtle Beach for more than 15 years. After they were unable to raise about $2.5 million to partially fund the center’s construction with help from the city, board members asked City Council in 2012 to fund the project in its entirety.

City leaders put the issue to a vote in a referendum.

Almost 54 percent of city residents who voted in November 2013 approved the purchase of $10 million in bonds to build the center. The referendum passed 1,915 to 1,641. But the referendum came with a five-year deadline to purchase the bonds.

The city pursued the option of adding an indoor performing arts center onto the convention center, but a projected budget analysis showed the theater would not be self-supporting. City leaders looked to a facility with dual functions, however, as the key to make up lost revenue.

Edwards said they toured an indoor and outdoor entertainment facility in Pittsburgh, Penn., last year and came back inspired.

Stage AE has an indoor venue and an outdoor amphitheater that shares a common stage separated by an airport hangar door.

“That’s where we came up with this idea,” said Jamie Broadhurst, a member of the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center board of directors, who toured Stage AE last year.

This makes it a for-profit facility and it’s going to generate tens of thousands of dollars in economic impact.

Paul Edwards, director of Myrtle Beach Convention Center

The proposal announced at a budget retreat last April would allow the indoor arts center and amphitheater to share a stage, rigging and light systems. The indoor theater could seat 500 or more guests. The outdoor amphitheater could accommodate 15,000 or more. The back of the performing arts center stage would have a divider similar to Stage AE.

“This makes it a for-profit facility and it’s going to generate tens of thousands of dollars in economic impact,” Edwards said.

Broadhurst said the joint facility “helps us attain a dual goal.”

“We’re very excited about it,” Broadhurst said. “We’ve been meeting with the city these past few weeks.”

Edwards said the city has been working on finalizing a request for proposals to bid the project and its design concept out to interested architects. He said he believes the requests will be discussed at City Council’s budget retreat in April, if not at council’s meeting next week.

The project was estimated to cost $12 million to $15 million last year. But Edwards said allowing sponsors to contribute to the project for naming rights to the new center could help cover any costs over the $10,000,000 bond referendum.

Broadhurst said that anything that gets the project off the ground and helps the city maintain its budget without having to raise taxes, “we’re all for it.”

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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