A Performing Arts Center in Our Future?

      We’re about to find out if a performing arts center is in our future.

            And, if so, when?

            And, if so, where?

            And the bigger question, if so, how much?

            This county, city and community will learn the answers to all of those questions at a public meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Crown Coliseum ballroom at 1960 Coliseum Drive.

            Conventions, Sports and Leisure International in September 2019 was approved to have Spectra Venue Management commission the market analysis and study that included public forums and interviews with key stakeholders and others in the community. The question concerns the fact that the Crown Theatre and Arena, circa 1968, are scheduled to close in November 2025.

            The study, according to a county news release, was paid for with funding set aside by Spectra Venue Management that manages the Crown Complex for the county, as outlined in its 2017 management agreement with Cumberland County for mutually agreed upon projects.

            Not to worry about the 10,000 seat Crown Coliseum. It will remain intact. This is about the 2,400-seat theater that has been home for everything from high school graduations to performers to include Olivia Newton-John, Tony Bennett, Foreigner, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, The Doobie Brothers, Boyz II Men, Chicago and the late Glen Campbell, the late Natalie Cole and the late Kenny Rogers.

            And this is about the 4,500-seat arena that has witnessed athletic events of just about every sport and performers to include Tom Jones, the late Ray Charles, and who will ever forget the three consecutive evenings in 1976 when Elvis Presley sang just about all of his hits from “Love Me Tender” to “Jailhouse Rock” to “Suspicious Minds” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

            But time marches on, and the arena and the theater are antiquated at best.

            This community has been talking about a performing arts center for years, and the time has come for Cumberland County commissioners Charles Evans, Glenn Adams Jr., Jeannette Council, Jimmy Keefe, Michael Boose, Larry Lancaster and Toni Stewart to decide about a performing arts center, and hopefully in a co-op agreement with city leaders. We’ve talked about a performing arts center downtown. Other potential sites have been bandied about, from Interstate 295 and the Outer Loop to the current location on U.S. 301.

            “A new, modern facility will serve those of us who live here and attract visitors to our community,” Charles Evans, County Commissioners chairman, said earlier this year, in urging all to participate in the CS&L survey.

            Charles Evans said it right.

            Much will depend on Wednesday’s survey report. 

            We’ll keep our fingers crossed, but the truth is that a performing arts center for this community will not be so much as an expenditure, but more an investment in this community that will serve us for generations to come.

            Yes, we’re about to find out if a performing arts center is in our future.

            If so, when?

            If so, where?

            If so, how much?

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