Performing Arts Center: Pinehurst's Field of Dreams?
When thinking about the proposed multimillion-dollar Performing Arts Center for Pinehurst, one is reminded of the famous line from “Field of Dreams,” the iconic 1989 baseball film: “If you build it, they will come.”
(That’s usually misquoted; the actual movie line from Ray Kinsella’s novel, “Shoeless Joe Jackson,” is: “If you build it, he will come.”)
For the privately conceived Pinehurst Performing Arts Center (PPAC) now being researched at public cost, a big question to be answered is: Will enough music and theater aficionados be motivated to travel considerable distances to Pinehurst to enjoy the first-class entertainment contemplated? Will they come?
Will the locals pay the high ticket prices today’s top talent commands and contribute the millions that are required to build and maintain the ambitious project? Although Pinehurst has above-average incomes, much of Moore and surrounding counties do not.
More important, if the project loses money over the first five to 10 years, does Pinehurst’s government intend to subsidize the losses? Few such ventures ever experience a fast payout.
A research study commissioned by Pinehurst recently began to explore the practicality of a PPAC. Conducted by Webb Management Services of New York, it is unusual in that the people interviewed do not represent a cross section of the community, but were mostly hand-picked by proponents of the PPAC. No attempt was made to achieve objectivity in the findings.
Usually when a private organization wishes to start a PPAC, it raises sufficient money to conduct its own research. Traditionally the founding organization has secured the promised backing of a significant donor or donors to underwrite the project.
This PPAC begins as a government-supported project. I predict the initial research study will be quickly followed up with calls for additional ones to confirm findings and questions raised by the first study. Is Pinehurt’s government planning to pay for these next steps, or will the costs be paid by the steering committee promoting the PPAC?
I was associated with the Radio City Music Hall (1948-1952) when it offered first-pick films, a corps de ballet, symphony orchestra, great Wurlitzer organ music, live entertainers and the famed Rockettes — all on America’s finest stage. Millions have loved its outstanding Easter and Christmas performances. It was all made possible by the generosity, business acumen and commitment to the arts of the Rockefeller family. It remains America’s No. 1 performing arts center, albeit without Rockefeller backing.
The Radio City Music Hall, launched during the Great Depression, succeeded because strong financial backing allowed it to hire the top talent needed to create and manage such an ambitious enterprise. When television affected theatergoing habits, the Music Hall suffered big drops in audiences and revenues. Only a family like the Rockefellers could absorb the financial losses the center encountered year after year.
The PPAC doesn’t have a Rockefeller in the wings. Or if it does, he’s been too bashful to take a bow.
Each year the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra performs six well-attended musical programs at Pinecrest High School. Will the PPAC invite it to continue playing here under its aegis, or will it field a competing symphony orchestra?
The current N.C. Symphony ticket prices of $27 to $45 are nominal in today’s market. They would have to be significantly higher if performed in a new multimillion-dollar auditorium with a share of the proceeds going to the PPAC.
Pinecrest’s Lee Auditorium seats 1,348, and Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College seats 700. The PPAC has suggested a new auditorium be built seating 1,500 to 2,200. A fundamental question is: Does Moore County need another auditorium?
The March issue of Our State magazine includes an advertisement for On StageinNC.com, which lists 26 different venues for 50 different performances. There is no shortage of places to go for good entertainment in our area. How many are big winners? How many experience sellout performances?
A few phone calls by the advocates of the PPAC, or by town employees, could have easily discovered the answers to those and many more fundamental questions before a research company was ever employed.
In “Field of Dreams,” they came. If a PPAC is created, will they also come? And if they don’t, guess who’ll pick up the tab?
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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