OCEAN CITY – Before the performing arts center has even received the final approval on its so-called birth, local residents are coming together to help ensure it a bright future.
A who’s who of savvy business-folk, entrepreneurs and local big wigs have stepped forward and formed the new Ocean City Cultural Arts Advisory Board, which City Council approved in a 6-1 vote, Councilman Joe Hall in opposition, and they hope that with their involvement and their collective experience, concern about the creation of the performing arts center will be eased.
“I think that we received a pretty resounding yes,” said resident Peck Miller, whose wife Patti and Seacrets owner Leighton Moore are co-chairing the board. “We want this performing arts center to be self-sustaining and to be a benefit to the town, not a burden, so if we can put all of our experience and knowledge into making it a success, I think that may be the thing that change some minds that this is really what the town needs.”
Mayor Rick Meehan recommended to the council that it allow the creation of this advisory board, so that the group could start to plan ahead in anticipation of the October ruling of the Board of Public Works, which will determine whether to approve the town’s continued partnership with the Maryland Stadium Authority so that an estimated $8.2 million expansion to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center can begin.
“We’ve all seen what the results of a public and private partnership can do, as with the Ocean City Development Corporation and it’s very encouraging when members of the community step up to try to help the town of Ocean City like this,” Meehan said. “Performing arts have always been one of our goals and it’s something that we think can have a dramatic effect on our local economy, and even though the date for the final completion for this is in the future, now is the time to plan for the future.”
Miller said that with the amount of experience in the group the planning and troubleshooting for the performing arts center will be extremely thorough and will hopefully be the easement of concern that the council and residents had when the expansion of the convention center passed in a split 4-3 vote last fall.
The main concerns, especially for Councilman Joe Hall, who continues to vocalize his opposition to the proposed 1,200-fixed seat auditorium, was that the change in the floor plan in the expansion was counterproductive to how the center is run currently and that the performing arts center would be a flop. Hall also said later the arts center has skipped ahead of other projects on the city radar, such as the downtown parking garage, the new Art League of Ocean City facility and the new 15th Street fire station.
Nonetheless, the group’s mission statement, which states, “a community’s wealth is directly related to its cultural assets” also note that the group plans to conduct studies on which types of acts would be successful, basically develop the booking strategies for national, regional, and local acts, and establish themselves as a 501(C) 3 non-profit group, which will enable them to raise funds for the center, and reach out to the community for support as well.
“An effort like this takes a lot of energy and good smart people with enthusiasm to make it a success and we know we have that with this group”, said Peck Miller. “Economic growth by way of development is only a bonus, and should never be thought of as the bread and butter for any town. All the studies done say that this town’s immediate need is for a cultural amenity like a performing arts center, and now that it looks like we are headed that way, we want to make sure that it is a success and another one of the big reasons that people want to visit here.”