Performing Arts Center Pitched For Proposed Expansion

OCEAN CITY – A performing arts center in Ocean City could become a reality sooner rather than later, with city officials aiming to include the proposed performing arts center in the upcoming Convention Center expansion.

“I think the public would be much more receptive to the expansion of the Convention Center if they had something like this to look forward to,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic at a Tourism Commission meeting last week.

The proposal for a performing arts center on a parcel of land in an area of the Convention Center parking lot was brought forth by local Realtor and Planning Commission member Peck Miller last week, as he presented his renderings of what he hopes will be an “iconic” building for Ocean City.

“For the last couple of years, I’ve been working to bring some performing arts centers to the area,” Miller said.

Miller envisions the addition of three performing arts centers in the area, one in Berlin, one in Ocean City and one outside of Ocean City. For Ocean City, Miller hopes to bring a missing element to the convention center with the addition of a performing arts center.

The building would be what Miller described as an “iconic type building” that would be in the shape of a wave and identifiable for Ocean City.

“I’m not saying Ocean City is in need of an icon, but this could do that,” Miller said.

The performing arts center would seat 1,500 to 1,800 people and would include a five-story parking garage that would add some 400 spaces to the convention center parking lot. The building would also include a public transportation system that could shuttle visitors throughout town.

Miller has researched a variety of performing arts centers and referred specifically to the performing arts center in Virginia Beach, which was built recently and funded by local government.

“Its absolutely the most elegant thing I’ve ever seen,” Miller said of the building.

That project reached totals of $47 million, but Miller anticipates a budget of $30 to $32 million for the Ocean City performing arts center that could be funded by a combination of town funding and private naming rights.

“I think Peck’s right on the money, we are so behind the times in something like this,” said local hotelier and Economic Development Committee Chair Lenny Berger. “If we could add it to the Convention Center expansion at the same time, it would be a home run.”

“You have to look at the benefits this would provide,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.

Tourism Commission Chair and Council member Margaret Pillas said in a later interview, “I’d love to see a performing arts center. I think this is a wonderful idea.”

Pillas explained that the parcel of land has been under consideration for a parking garage, noting that a combination parking garage and performing arts center would be a better use of that land.

“It would really tie in well and it would be an attractive use of that space,” said Pillas. “It just makes really good sense. We could bring so much more to the town.”

The town is currently in the research stages of the Convention Center expansion, awaiting results from their preliminary stages of the convention center expansion study. Pillas reported that those results should be coming back within weeks, at which point the town will begin discussions on feasibility of the expansion and the possibility of the addition of the performing arts center.

“It’s a perfect size for our town and I think it would get a great response. I love the idea,” said Pillas.