As a child, when I took more food than I could eat my mother would say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” Well, the same may be said of Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s appetite for initiating future economic development projects.
Currently, public opinion is positive and cautiously optimistic about the economic development projects taking place in our city. Residents are excited and supportive of our new Houston Astros Advanced Class A minor league baseball team, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, and the forthcoming new $37.8 million stadium. This structure, along with the $17 million renovation of the historic Prince Charles Hotel into apartments plus a parking deck, hotel and office complex, is the nucleus of a much-needed healthy economic boom for the revival of Fayetteville’s downtown community. Add to that the prospects of a statewide Civil War and Reconstruction History Center, and this becomes a masterful undertaking.
Is it needed? Yes.
Will it succeed? Well that depends on how our elected leadership manages our resources. And from that point of view comes plenty of healthy skepticism. After all, the sports complex center, skate board park and east side senior citizen facility, all of which were included and approved in the $35 million parks and rec bond package, are still in the planning stages.
Before the first Woodpecker home game or the first lease on a Prince Charles apartment is signed, our elected are spending tens of thousands of dollars with consultants on feasibility and location studies of a potential performing arts center in downtown Fayetteville.
The need for a performing arts center has been talked about and even debated for more than a decade. There was a need then, and there is still a need. With new construction taking place and the number of future projects yet to be completed, even ardent supporters of a performing arts center feel it may be prudent to slow down the development frenzy to make sure we don’t overextend our resources. We need to be able to support and adequately pay for these cultural amenities without adding an undue burden on local taxpayers – a reasonable request. No doubt the need is upon us with the deteriorating conditions of the Crown Theatre. However, the question remains – will the demographics of Cumberland County support such a facility? With a potential price tag of $50 million-plus, there are still plenty of other questions that need to be addressed.
What shows will it attract? And at what price?
Recently, tickets at Durham Performing Arts Center for the touring company of “Hamilton” sold at Broadway prices. Given a choice, why would big-show promoters choose Fayetteville over larger markets like Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem?
What effect would it have on other local cultural institutions like Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Charlotte Blume’s annual “Nutcracker” ballet, Community Concerts and the “Heart of Christmas Show?”
And, the most critical question of all: How do we pay for it?
Sure, the consultants say once built the facility will pay for itself. Historically, there are many who will dispute that claim. Besides, when it comes to taking advice and direction from any consultant, always pay close attention to who is paying them. It is a good indication of the outcome.
A Fayetteville Performing Arts Center is a good, feasible and honorable idea. However, residents must first see and experience the positive effects of the economic impact promised as a result of the current downtown development and investments. Success here will add excitement, enthusiasm, confidence and support to a Fayetteville performing arts center proposal and any future projects that will enhance the quality of life in our community.
Let’s develop Fayetteville on a solid foundation of proven successes and not on speculation.
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