Florida Board to Revisit ‘Big Bend’ Performing Arts Center


The Florida Center for the Performing Arts board of directors has decided to revisit the 2005 recommendation for a new center. Because of the downturn in the economy, the board has asked the Connecticut-based consulting firm it is working with to come up with a more financially feasible suggestion.
In 2004, Theater Projects Consultants was hired to do a study for the Performing Arts Committee of Tallahassee to determine the best type of performing arts center for the Big Bend area. 
Jean Frey, campaign executive director and member of the board of directors for the Florida Center for the Performing Arts, said the plan needed to be revisited after the economic downturn – as well as concerns voiced by citizens and public officials.
The Florida Center for the Performing Arts is asking TPC to update its previous study and recommend a cheaper alternative. The new plan is expected to provide options for cutting capital and operating costs such as decreasing the seat count, square footage, number of venues or phased construction. The performing arts center would still meet the needs of the community.
“It would have a lot of positive effects in Tallahassee. There is a real need for another venue for the performing arts in the community,” said Frey.
Frey went on to say that as of now, there is no real community home for the performing arts. Tallahassee relies heavily on colleges, schools and churches for venues that are not always suitable or available.
Keith Oliver, 22, a theatre performance student at Florida A&M, believes a performing arts center would add a new creative atmosphere for Tallahassee and would create more opportunities for students interested in the arts.
“Bringing a performing arts center to the community of Tallahassee would provide a variety of different opportunities for students pursuing a profession in that area, and would benefit both universities’ students,” said Oliver.
The performing arts center would also provide educational benefits and programs for students of all ages, in addition to yielding economic growth for the community. The project is expected to contribute to the redevelopment of downtown and fuel the Gaines Street project. Historically, restaurants and retail outlets spring up around performing arts centers.
Dr. Valencia Matthews, board member for the Florida Center for Performing Arts and Education, explained the experience of seeing performances in the appropriate venue is quite different from an inappropriate setting such as the Civic Center.
“Tallahassee is a culturally rich community that should have a place for the local artist to perform, also people just don’t realize the economic impact that the arts has on the community”, said Matthews. “There is an economic impact that you would have to look at over the long term, there is always an economic impact the arts will have on the community, a positive one.”
Projections are that the $113 million facility recommended by TPC in 2005 would generate $14 million in new sales and revenue each year.
“There are three main benefits that come from bringing the center to Tallahassee: economic, education and entertainment, as well as enhancing the quality of life in the region,” said Frey. “It will help attract corporations and professionals looking to relocate and also help keep the educated young people who graduate from FAMU, FSU and TCC here.”