Renovation nears end in Georgetown

It's easy to imagine the possibilities for the big, bright Winyah Auditorium: concerts, plays, meetings, receptions and more.

The renovation of the former high school facility has been many years in the making, but officials say major events could be held in it as early as this summer.

"I think I could almost start renting it myself now," said Betty Roberts, the chairwoman of the Winyah Auditorium Board of Directors.

Roberts said she fieldsmanycalls from people and groups wanting to know when they could rent it and for how much.

"There's one guy who, every time he sees me he asks 'You set a price yet for the auditorium?," Roberts said.

The renovation has been a long process, with a few different administrations and groups involved, but the main rooms are nearly complete, she said.

The renovation began in earnest about five years ago, a few years after the Tiller family purchased the building and agreed to donate portions of it to the city to use as a cultural facility.

Roberts said the board has spent around $700,000 renovating the building, with money coming from both the city and county hospitality tax funds and private donations.

She said the group is down to about $200,000 and still has to renovate a dressing room, one reception room and put in lighting and sound systems.

But Georgetown City Mayor Jack Scoville, who also sits on the Winyah board, is hopeful that while that work is being done, the facility can still be rented out to groups.

"It might not be completed but it's useable," he said. "In a couple months it'll be ready to roll."

Scoville said the city cannot directly operate the facility because it is part of a condominium and lawyers have said that is not allowed.

But the city has been a part of the auditorium renovation for a number of years, matching the around $300,000 first donated to the board by the Georgetown Youth Association to give the group $600,000 to begin renovations.

And soon the city will officially turn the facility over to the board. Then the city has agreed to lease the property from the board for three years at about $25,000 a year to help cover the basic operating costs for the board as it gets off the ground.

The hope is that after that the board will be able to operate on its own.

And Roberts said she already has a great idea for the first big event to be held in the facility.

"A battle of the church choirs," she said. "I think that would be so much fun."