Council decides public will vote for MB Performing Arts Center

Proponents of the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center are thrilled following a meeting Tuesday. The Myrtle Beach City Council is one step closer to a referendum asking the public to fund the development.

The plans for the proposed performing arts center include an 832 seat theatre, a "black box" performance space, a rehearsal hall, a lobby art gallery, dual dressing rooms, back-of-house scenery and construction space, bathrooms, a concession stand, and a box office.

The project is expected to cost about 10 million dollars. Council has decided to ask voters through a referendum if they want to fund the project through a tax increase.

Tuesday council members had to decide on what to put in a referendum, specifically how much money to asked in a tax increase to pay for the art center (all $10 million or just a portion of the funding.) They also had to choose whether to hold a special election in Spring 2013 or wait til the general election in November.

"They do seem to be of one mind, let's make it a general election referendum next November. And talk about 10 million dollars worth of funding for a performing arts center," Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said.

The performing arts center has been a work in progress for more than a decade.

In 1999, the city purchased the Rivoli Theatre with the intention of turning it into a performing arts facility. But leaders of the Rivoli Theater Group, the fundraising arm for the facility, determined in 2008 that reviving the theater would be too expensive.

In June 2012, Christian youth group Ground Zero signed a lease for the Rivoli Theatre with the city.

The Myrtle Beach city council still has to officially vote to add a referendum to the November ballot. That is expected early January. Kruea says the referendum would be advisory, or non-binding. That means that even if voters approve it, council members are not obligated to raise taxes to pay for the theatre.

If voters approve a referendum, the public would have to vote on a tax increase of approximately 3 mills, equal to about $24 dollars a year on a $200,000 owner-occupied property. The tax increase would be to repay $10 million in bonds to build the fine arts center.