If $50 million in revenues could be generated with a new 1,500-seat concert hall on Hilton Head Island, private investors should be falling over themselves to build it.
Why, then, does the nonprofit Community Vision of Hilton Head organization need tax dollars before it even finishes the study phase of its proposed concert hall?
Why is the concert hall targeted for public land -- land that is now being used nicely as the Shelter Cove Community Park?
A better question is why Town Council voted this week to give $75,000 in tax money toward a study of the proposed concert hall.
Town Council should be in a better position than most to see the disconnect between this proposal and reality.
The reality is that the public till is empty. The town is already committed, if not over-committed, to supporting well-meaning and important nonprofit groups that enrich the community through arts and entertainment.
Town Council already wrestles with hard decisions on how to allocate accommodations tax dollars to all the arts and entertainment-oriented organizations that need it.
Town Council already knows how these things evolve. When the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina was proposed, the town was asked to help the private sector with the center's ambitious capital expenses. That capital contribution evolved into annual allocations for operating expenses, which the arts center cannot do without. This year, that allocation totals $425,703. And the arts center's original plan called for a second phase that would be a larger auditorium. One should ask why that proposal has never come to life.
Maybe our "vision" is clouded by the fact that the accommodations tax that the town controls is stretched to its maximum. And if an organization cannot even study its idea without needing public money, and apparently public land, red flags should be flying at Town Hall.
Town Council was told Hilton Head is falling behind other tourist destinations that have concert halls. But the town is not in the concert-hall business. It is, however, supporting handsomely an arts center, an orchestra and a museum, as well as parks, bicycle paths, beach nourishment and codes that protect the town's beauty and natural resources. There's only so much a town of 35,000 residents can do. Its legion of tourists are already contributing heavily to a long list of amenities and services through accommodations taxes on overnight lodging and hospitality taxes on prepared food and drink. And that money is already committed. That may not be visionary, but it's true.