Community members had the opportunity Tuesday to see and hear concrete plans for the construction of a performing arts center on College of Coastal Georgia’s campus.
Voters approved the ESPLOST (education special-purpose local-option sales tax) project in 2015, and over the past year an advisory committee has worked on the project details, visiting centers around the Southeast and gauging what this community’s center will need.
The $20 million in funds for the project, collected through the ESPLOST tax, became available on Sept. 1, said Don Myers, chair of the advisory committee. That money will be used to build the center.
The University System of Georgia voted Nov. 12 to to authorize CCGA to move forward with plans for the center. The college will begin design of the new facility, tentatively named the Coastal Community Center for the Arts, in 2020. Construction is expected to begin in 2021.
“We’re here tonight to talk about a project that has been on the hearts and the minds of this community for some time,” said Michelle Johnston, president of CCGA.
The meeting Tuesday took place in the college’s Southeast Georgia Conference Center and was hosted by the project’s advisory committee.
The plan is to build a center with 1,000 seats, a lobby, a backstage area and storage. The center will have professional-level acoustics and the ability to accommodate musical performances, concerts, dance performances, lectures, meetings and other events.
The committee plans to have telescopic seating installed on the main floor, so that the seating can be pushed back to provide a flat-floor space for events.
This plan is modeled after the Studio E in Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Ma.
“Our theory is that if it’s good enough for the Boston Symphony, it’s going to be good enough for us,” Myers said.
There will also be between six and 10 boxes with seating, and the boxes will be rented, creating an additional revenue source.
The envisioned goal is that the center will provide educational and economic benefits for the community, as well as added culture for students and the community at large.
A memorandum of understanding between the University System of Georgia and Glynn County Schools states that the center will be owned by the school system for 30 years before being transferred to the USG. The center will be operated by the college, which will also fund those operations. A center director will be a college employee.
The school system will have first access to the center’s calendar, per the MOU, and schools will have rent-free access to the center.
Audience members who attended Tuesday’s meeting had numerous questions for the project leaders. They asked how the center will benefit those living in poverty locally, why the center focuses only on performing arts and not visual arts and why the center was not planned for construction in downtown Brunswick.
Myers said the center is expected to have a positive local economic impact that will benefit all community residents.
The center is expected to attract students and performing groups from around the region and statewide, he said.
“We think we have a facility that will not only provide for the students of Glynn County but will allow us to host students statewide,” Myers said.
To offer visual arts, Myers said the center will need additional financial support.
“$20 million only goes so far,” he said.
According to the agreement with the USG, the center will be able to run a deficit of $100,000 a year, Myers said. The plan is to have a “friends of the center” program that will raise at least $100,000 annually to support the center, along with the revenue that will be created through its operations.
The ballot description voters approved stated that the center would be located on the college’s campus, Myers said, so the committee has adhered to that original plan.
Audience members also had several questions about potential deficits in the budget.
Myers said he fully expects that community will contribute to support this new center.
“Those of you who know me know my whole career has been in raising funds for nonprofits,” he said. “… Think of the issues over the last decade, of what the Land Trust has raised, think of what the symphony has raised, think of what the historical society has raised. We are a generous community, and so I’m expecting that that $100,000 will be a community response to a quality facility that we are providing.”