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      New performing arts center planned

      Plans that had been in the works for years to renovate the old Rivoli Theatre in Myrtle Beach are close to being dead.

      At 50 years old, the Rivoli is a small part of Myrtle Beach history. The city bought the former movie theater in 1999 with the intention of turning it into a performing arts center.

      But now the group that had been raising money for renovation has concluded that rescuing the theater would simply cost too much.

      "It looks like it would be more feasible to start with a fresh place. There's virtually nothing that can be saved from this structure," said Bob Pickett, chairman of the Rivoli Theatre Group.

      Much planning, fundraising and hope went into refurbishing the old building and Pickett says there's no doubt some people will be disappointed that it's not likely to happen.

      But now, the Rivoli Group is supporting the city's proposal to build a new cultural arts facility.

      It would be attached to the convention center and the advantages to that are obvious.

      "There are economies of scale that you can get by doing that. You've got parking there, we've got other facilities there that you wouldn't have to build if you could tie on to the convention center," said city of Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea.

      Kruea said the new center would cost about $7 million. The city earmarked $5 million in next year's capitol improvement budget and hopes Rivoli supporters can help raise the rest.

      In the meantime, it looks like the old Rivoli Theatre could be for sale.

      Kruea said construction of the new 500-seat arts center could begin within a couple of years.