Valdosta weighs building new performing arts center

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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 16, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- A new performing arts center could be on the horizon for the Valdosta community.

Valdosta city officials are looking to add a new performing arts center to the upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project list. The SPLOST penny tax is used to fund local capital improvement projects.

Earlier this week, the Lowndes County Board of Education approved preliminary plans to build a new performing arts center on campus. Now, some leaders in Valdosta think that may not be enough for the community, hoping to build its own.

The city has formed a new committee, made up of city council members, city staff and community members. The group is looking into options, studying whether the facility is needed, how much money should be allocated for it and where it should be built.

Officials said investing in the arts is a boost to the local economy and local tourism.

"It's an economic development tool. People look at how involved you are in the arts when they're looking at moving here or looking at locating a business," said Valdosta Mayor John Gayle. "It's very important to our community."

"Communities that have performing arts are very attractive to people, even if they're not going to participate in it, it does stand out," said Chris Hamilton, President of Valdosta-Lowndes County Conference Center and Tourism Authority. "It actually says quality, that you actually take the arts seriously."

City officials hope to add it to the SPLOST project list, which is expected to be up for a vote in November. The project was on the last SPLOST proposed six years ago, but was voted down.

"We had to take that money that we had allocated for the performing arts center and put it in to the wastewater treatment plant which we were required to rebuild," Gayle said.

The proposal comes at the heels of two similar projects. Valdosta State University is now designing a new performing arts center at the former Ashley Cinemas location. Lowndes County Schools is also designing a new center as it rebuilds Lowndes High School.

Some question whether having so many facilities will create scheduling conflicts, making it difficult to sell the seats needed to operate.

"You've still got the others that will probably open their doors for additional business beyond what their original scope was, so are you creating a competitive environment in your own community? Yeah, actually you are," Hamilton said.

The committee is still in the early planning stages. The city will be finalizing the SPLOST project list over the next couple of months.

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