Weigh in on a Performing Arts Center

By Bill Kirby Jr.

Cumberland County Memorial Theatre, Circa 1968, at the Crown Complex (Photo Courtesy of Cumberland County)

            Some of us will remember that Friday evening in 1968, when the Cumberland County Memorial Auditorium was staging its first concert.

            Still, I see the anticipation of concertgoers.

            We had something for folks in this city and county and surrounding areas to attend concert events and over the ensuing 50-plus years, we would see artists of renown from Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Olivia Newton-John, Tom Jones, Jackie Wilson, Foreigner, Vince Gill, Martina McBryde, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Jones, Reba McEntire, Glen Campbell, Natalie Cole, The Doobie Brothers, Boyz II Men, Chicago, Kenny Rogers and let us never forget, Elvis.

            Elvis Presley didn’t perform for three nights in the theater-proper in 1976, but he did play in the accompanying arena to capacity audiences as did others.

            Soon enough, the theater and the arena at the Crown Complex out there on U.S 301 Business are closing, according to a county announcement in 2020. There will be no more events, according to the county, for the theater and the arena come November of 2025.

            The 10,000 seat Crown Coliseum will remain intact, but the 4,500-capacity arena and the 2,400-seat theatre will be no more, at least as event venues. The wrecking ball, too, could be in the future of both buildings.

Cumberland County Memorial Theatre, Circa 1968, at the Crown Complex (Photo Courtesy of Cumberland County)

            And that brings us back to plans and potential for a Performing Arts Center.

            The county has been talking about one for years.

            But the time is near to stop talking and get on with committing to building a Performing Arts Center.

            That’s where we as a community come in, and the county wants to know what you think. The county wants you to complete an online survey as part of a market analysis and feasibility study commissioned by Spectra Venue Management out of Pennsylvania that manages the Crown Complex for the county. Convention, Sports & Leisure is conducting the survey.

            The survey took a setback in 2020 because of the COVID-19 health pandemic.

Now, it’s back on track.

                “I would like to encourage everyone to take the survey regarding a new entertainment venue to replace the aging Crown Theatre,” says Charles Evans, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. “This is your chance to share feedback on this important topic, because a new, modern facility will serve those of us who live here and attract visitors to our community.”

Charles Evans

A pertinent survey question concerns where the Performing Arts Center should be located: at the current Crown Complex location; downtown; or perhaps near Interstate 295 and the Outer Loop. 

            The survey will take you about 10 minutes. You have until July 23 to complete the survey.  Your voice matters, not only today but for generations to come.

            I was 19 years old when the Cumberland County Memorial Theatre, and the arena opened in 1968, and still can see the anticipation, excitement and pride on the faces of those in this community to be a part of the first concert featuring Paul Revere & The Raiders featuring Mark Lindsey

            No matter where you wish to see a Performing Arts Center, tell ‘em in the survey to include a couple of elevators.

            Paul Revere, organist and co-founder of Paul Revere & The Raiders died at age 76 on October 4, 2014. Mark Lindsey, a co-founder and the lead singer, is 79.

            I’m no longer 19, but I still believe where there is a will, there is a way.

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961