Greensboro, NC -- On Friday, News 2's Lauren Melvin asked Mayor Robbie Perkins viewers' questions about a proposed performing arts center in downtown Greensboro.
LM: Scottie Moore said, "How many groups will be able to use it? And will they be paid performances, mostly local, will young people who aspire to a career in entertainment be able to use the facility?"
RP: Well, this is going to be a community facility. And the folks that I contemplate running the facility will be the folks that run the coliseum. So, it will be a similar mix to what we've had out there, except that we will be able to host the larger Broadway shows.
LM: This is from Yvonne Ore. She asked, "where will it be located? And what sort of events will it host? Will GPAC replace the war memorial?"
RP: Well, the task force is working on a downtown location. And this will replace the functionally obsolete war memorial auditorium.
LM: Anthony Fletcher asked, "Will it offer the same kind of shows that Durham performing arts does?"
RP: Well, we hope to have the same success that Durham is having. And obviously, we'd like to have some of the large Broadway shows, but I think we would also have some single shows that would be pretty exciting. And that, I think, would be our expertise, based on the way our coliseum folks had booked a number of shows over the past 30, 40 years.
LM: "How will we pay for it?" that's what Jim McCall asks.
RP: Well, it's a combination. I think that it's only fair that some private money be raised. That the users of the facility pay for a portion of it and because it will benefit the taxpayers in the city that there be some sort of bond on the ballot that they would have to vote for and be put on property taxes.
LM: Lisa Miller said, "why would they waste our money? The majority of people in Greensboro will never use it, so why are they forcing another issue on us?"
RP: Well, I'm not sure that it's a forced issue. I think what we're trying to do is build a city that is attractive for folks to come here and move their businesses, and grow their businesses, and invest in our community. And if we don't stay competitive and offer the types of entertainment venues that folks have in competitive cities, then we're going to be left in the dust. So, you either invest in your city, or you fall behind.
LM: Do you think everyone will use this venue? Will it be affordable for everyone? Or will it just be for maybe those 2,000 people who took the survey and said, they really want it here?
RP: I think that the consultant's report indicated that this will be something that will be open for all of our citizens. And it will have a wide variety of entertainment purposes. So, this isn't just going to be for one specific group of people or another. I think, if you look at the way the coliseum staff has managed the Amphitheatre, at the coliseum, they've got all kinds of shows for all kinds of folks. And if you choose not to go, fine. But if you want to have an entertainment option in downtown Greensboro, and have an exciting evening, it should be there for you. That's how you recruit the types of jobs that we need in this community.
LM: Leah Parks said, "what makes you think this would be profitable when the coliseum doesn't make any money?"
RP: The profitability is based on an economic study that was determined by consultants. And we only have to look to Durham. And Durham's facility is making money. So we think we can generate an operating profit on this facility. It won't cover its debt service, and no one is saying that. But if we have an operating profit, then I think everyone would be very pleased.
LM: And Kathy Cullen Johnson said, "why is the answer always a bond referendum? Tax the homeowners, let them foot the bill to pay for everything. Not fair! Now is not the time! If anything, we need to be focused on education. Keep band-aiding war memorial, let things get better. Then re-address, but don't keep penalizing the homeowners." Is now not the time to do this?
RP: Absolutely, I would disagree with that. I think that now is the time. Because you build into your business cycle. If you wait and let the business cycle improve before you start, then you miss the corporate relocations that will raise our standard of living in Greensboro. So, what you've got to do is build into the emerging business cycle, and prepare for the job growth that will come if you lay the proper foundation. What we're trying to do is build more than a performing arts center. We're trying to build a city. And when you build a city, there are certain amenities that you have to have to be competitive. We can't be the third largest city in North Carolina and not have a first class performing arts venue. It's not acceptable. If we're going to recruit world-class companies, we need to offer their management, their employees, something to come here and what we will offer them is an outstanding quality of life.
RP: This is a big hole in our community in terms of what we can offer them. We've got a 50 year old facility. That facility has done its job, it's time to move on and build something first class, in our downtown, and make Greensboro the city it needs to be.
LM: Since taxpayers are paying for it, it will be affordable to them?
RP: Well, taxpayers pay for a lot of things in the city. And it's important to note that if we don't have economic growth, and we don't create better jobs, the folks that are going to be paying the taxes here, will pay more.
According to Perkins, Greensboro City Council has not yet gotten the final report back from the GPAC task force. The council has to make a decision by June 26, if they want to put a bond referendum for GPAC on the November ballot.
RP: We've taken note of the property owners comments, that they don't want it all on their backs. And that's why we're trying to put a mix together that is more equitably distributed among the folks that are going to use it and are going to benefit from it.
LM: What's the timeline we're talking about, if it gets approved in November?
RP: I think we're talking three years. So the earliest the facility would open would be in late 2015 or early 2016.
WFMY News 2