OCEAN CITY – The construction of the new Performing Arts Center at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center has made some headway over the summer as crews are entering into the final phase of the project to be completed by mid-to-late December.
The Dispatch last checked in with the progress of the new state-of-the-art, 1,200-seat, two-tiered facility inside the convention center in March. At that time, construction was on pace to meet the aggressive target completion date set for late November 2014.
City Engineer Terry McGean said this week the completion date has been pushed back slightly due to some run-ins while the renovation is taking place. For example, the slab that had to be cut out was much thicker then what was shown on the original drawings of the building, so it took a lot longer to make the necessary cuts to pull it out.
However, project costs are remaining within the $14 million budget that is being funded in part by the state through the Maryland Stadium Authority at $5.7 million. The Town of Ocean City is funding the remaining $8.3 million, which is covered by a 2013 bond issue.
In March, construction crews were working on completing the ceiling and drywall on the second floor, as they were working from top to bottom. Additionally, they were preparing to take out the floor of the second story to be replaced by the second-tier of seating, which has been completed.
“If you were to go in now, a lot of the structure is in. You can see all the steel for the balconies is in, the stage steel is in, so you can really start to get the look and feel of what it is going to be like,” McGean said this week.
Next, will come the finishes, such as seating, wiring and installing the sound equipment.
“There is a lot left to go in the next few months,” McGean said.
Staff at the convention center is continuing to aggressively fill the performance schedule for the new facility.
In March, Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino announced the confirmation of the grand opening and ribbon cutting is scheduled for Jan. 17, which is Martin Luther holiday weekend. He reported the entertainment will be provided by the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Julien Benichou.
“Along with a couple other surprise acts but I can’t tell you who they are yet because they haven’t been confirmed,” Noccolino said this week.
Scheduling has advanced even earlier into December with two events set in stone and three more possibly on the way.
On Dec. 11, the initial showing will take place with Bill Badger of the Worcester County Development Corporation holding a symposium along with the Ocean City Development Corporation and other stakeholders in the area.
On Dec. 13, local promoters T.E.A.M Productions has a hold on the facility for the first concert to take place with a Christmas show, and on Dec. 27 a tentative agreement is in place with local promoter Mike Wicklein for another concert, but no further details have been released on that as of yet.
“I did meet with producers that produce shows most notably at The Kennedy Center and other theatres. They are interested in bringing shows here in the latter part of 2015 and 2016. They are looking at about six shows a year, which will be musicals and plays,” Noccolino said.
The convention center currently hosts 75 events held a year with its existing clients. According to Noccolino, about 30 of those clients have committed to using the new Performing Arts Center, including Epic Brand Cheerleading, the Seaside Boat Show, Starpower, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, Maryland State Fireman’s Association and many more.
Phase II of the convention center’s expansion, which is the construction of the Performing Arts Center, began on Oct. 20 with demolition work in the old sections of Hall C on the ground floor of the convention center and a demising wall going up on the second floor in what used to be part of Halls A and B. The floor-to-ceiling demising wall is complete, separating the relatively new bay-front ballroom on the second floor from the construction work going on in the performing arts center. The intent is to allow crews to continually work on the massive project without any disruption to the regular daily uses of the convention center and the already booked guests.
The first phase of the major convention center expansion, including the bay-front ballroom and its floor-to-ceiling windows, was completed last year.