Letters to the Editor

Don't confuse studies on island arts venues

Please let me comment on the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce's performing arts venue study five years ago.

I was a member of the chamber's task force that then-mayor Tom Peeples asked to determine if there are adequate venues for arts and other organizations to generate sufficient revenues to become independent from the need for accommodations tax requests.

For example, I am a member of the Hilton Head Barbershoppers' chorus, which never requests accommodations tax money, currently uses the very adequate 650-seat Hilton Head Island High School Visual and Performing Arts Center for its performances and generates sufficient money to be able to donate to our schools to promote vocal music.

While a 1,500-seat facility now being proposed would be welcomed, our study determined that it could not justify the cost. Indications from current local arts organizations showed that about 20 percent of the seats needed to make the new facility feasible would be filled.

The study stopped there, however, suggesting that a broader issue was the opportunity to operate a large venue with an independent organization managing the facility, filling the seats by bringing in well-known national attractions. It will take exceptional management and promotional talent to be successful.

While I consider the independent, 1,500-seat venue a high risk opportunity, the current study to which the town contributed $75,000 should not be confused with the results of the earlier, limited-scope research.

Dick Tyrrell

Hilton Head Island

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