Group pushes for concert hall on Hilton Head

August 6, 2011 

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A group of Hilton Head Island residents continues to push for a new indoor-outdoor performing arts center, even as local arts organizations struggle to stem financial losses and care for the current arts center.

Community Vision of Hilton Head has asked Town Council for a $75,000 grant to continue studies on creating a 1,500-seat concert hall at Shelter Cove Community Park.

So far the group, formed in 2006, has received $109,000 in contributions. Of that, about $89,000 has been spent on a consultant studying market demand and working with a land planner. Board member Dan Castro said the group needs $135,000 to complete conceptual plans and cost estimates, gauge community support, and develop a business plan and fundraising effort.

Such a center would enrich the lives of year-round residents and broaden the island's appeal to tourists, providing an alternative to golf, tennis and the beach, Castro said.

But it's still not clear how much the center would cost or who would build and operate it.

The Public Facilities Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend Town Council consider paying for further study but questioned whether there was enough demand and support on the island to pay for the concert hall.

Committee chairwoman and council member Kim Likins said she had "cautious excitement" about the proposal.

"This could be a game-changer for the island," she said. But ticket costs "need to be affordable for our visitors and island families."

Councilman George Williams Jr. said he was skeptical, as local arts and cultural groups have leaned more on town tax revenue to supplement operations, while ticket sales and donations have slumped.

Among the requests this year was $200,000 from the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to maintain its 45,000-square-foot building at Shelter Cove. Center officials said they needed help paying about $417,000 in maintenance costs expected this year, as donations, sponsorship and ticket sales decline.

Two previous attempts in the past 15 years or so to build performing arts centers on Hilton Head failed.

A Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce task force studied the issue about five years ago and determined a 1,500-seat venue couldn't be supported by arts groups because they don't stage enough events.

Castro contends a consultant has determined that more than 200 programs could be presented each year with a 1,500-seat hall that would have moveable walls that open to a grass amphitheater. It would attract national acts and generate as much as $50 million in revenue, he said.

"The island's existing performance spaces are too small and ill-suited acoustically for groups such as the Hilton Head Island Choral Society and Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra," he said. "This is an opportunity for bigger income and revenue to support performances by bringing in bigger and better concerts and audiences."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

Related content

Island group envisions new performing arts center: March 29, 2009

Hilton Head symphony asks donors to lift it out of $50K hole: March 23, 2011

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