Along with the beach, the Boardwalk, the Ocean City hotels and motels and, let’s face it, the Atlantic Ocean, another way the town is differentiating itself from other area venues is by adding a 1,200+ seat performing arts center to the Roland E. Powell convention center.
This will allow larger and more varied entertainment to play Ocean City as the town heads in a welcome new direction towards different styles of performances in the area.
This was taken into account in the design by adding what’s called a “fly gallery” that allows scene changes and lighting rigs to be quickly and easily moved around to accompany different types of performances. The guts of the sound system will be similarly high-end to ensure quality sound.
The existing upgrading project to the Convention Center made the addition of an auditorium more cost effective than constructing a stand-alone facility. This expansion, the first phase of which is due to be completed in one year, will also include a glass-front ballroom overlooking the bay.
The new performing arts center can draw a wider variety of entertainment, giving locals and tourists more things to do in Ocean City. More is always a better option when it comes to staying in Ocean City.
But there are also local concerns. Many groups are looking for venues for their performances, keynote speeches and other auditorium-appropriate venues. Other local venues such as school auditoriums are reportedly overtaxed as it is.
To fund the project the Ocean City council voted to continue a partnership with the Maryland Stadium Authority. The MSA was created by the MD General Assembly in 1986 to help plan and fund stadiums convention centers and the like. The town previously had a deal with the MSA to cover the building’s operating deficit 50-50 until 2014, but officials want to extend that agreement for another 20 years. They will also request the MSA fund one-quarter of the auditorium construction. Ocean City’s contribution will come from the existing food tax without change to the rate. What will change, according to reports, is that the town will continue to collect the food tax to fund future renovations, additions and repairs. The estimated cost of the project is $14 million.
It may not be the free-standing center that many have looked forward to for years, but a new facility to augment existing Ocean City entertainment could be a boon for the town. The Convention Center already draws a number of regional and national acts that do well in the existing center but would be more appropriate in an auditorium setting. Then, the other facilities could be used more for their intended purpose. The win-win here is the Roland E. Powell center is already a destination and is already booked close to capacity for some time to come. Increasing the volume of space is something that has already been approved and adding something appropriate yet different will allow more accommodations for Ocean City events to take place.
As previously stated, more is better when you have the volume to deal with it. As the convention center continues to grow and require more space it needs to be defined as a facility which can allow for any number of entertainment or performance acts that would want to put on a show for us, tourist season or not.