Grasping the benefits of a new

performance center


Municipalities throughout North Carolina recognize the economic, entertainment and educational value of a modern performance center, and have demonstrated this conviction by spending roughly $500 million over the past 25 years for their construction. Since 1990, North Carolina cities have built eight 1,000-plus seat halls. As a result, Asheville is now the only top-ten city without such a center, built to be a performance center. From a competitive point of view, Asheville is now at a disadvantage, despite our tradition as an entertainment and arts destination.


Of course, Asheville does not lack performance venues. But what is missing is a state–of-the-art center providing large audiences with the sight lines, acoustics, access and comfort they deserve, and providing their productions with the space, logistical support and stagecraft technology they need. What is also missing is the vibrant and diverse programming such a facility would attract. A new facility will enhance Asheville’s brand as the regional magnet for creativity, learning, entertainment and the arts, and preserve those qualities while stimulating the economy far into the future.


Imagine: A unique hall that enriches our entertainment experiences, our educational programs, and our economy, with a wide mix of local and national productions scheduled throughout the year.


Imagine: An exceptional experience for audiences and a national showcase for Western North Carolina’s creativity, energy and traditions.


Imagine: Your family enjoying the visual and acoustic richness of The Lion King or Wicked, from comfortable seats no more than 130 feet from the stage.


Imagine: A community classroom annually serving tens of thousands of students of all ages with lectures, children’s programming, summer camps, workshops and college-accredited courses.


Imagine: A job creator enriching the community, generating incremental government revenue and stimulating visitor spending. A performance center that means business.


Now is the time to unlock our imagination and open the window to a quality space that supports and attracts the finest talent to perform and teach. The performance center will also be an engine for countywide economic development. The Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts recently commissioned an independent analysis, which concluded that a new performance hall will support more than 330 permanent new jobs in Buncombe County. Additional economic output will total $33 million, much of that from $19.5 million of new visitor spending. The hall will generate annual tax revenue of $3.8 million.


A 2,000-seat hall is the “sweet spot” for Asheville — big enough for touring shows and large musical ensembles, small enough for superb acoustics. The preliminary design and costs were developed with the help of a local architect and a North Carolina construction company building a similar facility in Wilmington. We can have a multipurpose performance hall with flexible acoustics and a moveable stage shell, and the technology to support both incoming and outgoing simulcasting. The lobbies will feature a three-level atrium, and will also provide concessions and rest rooms on each floor, as well as easy access to the hall. Construction cost has been estimated to be $65 million, with several sites under consideration.


The cost and complexity of constructing, operating and maintaining a state-of–the-art performance center requires partnering among public, private, educational and civic organizations. The four major performance halls built in the state since 2007 all received 46 percent to 100 percent public financial support. We cannot tell you the right mix for Asheville, but we are ready to join our governments, educational institutions and private funders in a collaborative effort to determine how (and not whether) this community can get it done.


The Asheville Area Performance Center will be another signature building complementing Asheville’s cityscape. But in this case, the edifice will entertain us, enlighten us and cultivate our spirits. Now is the time to add this jewel to the crown.



This article was provided by the Asheville Citizen-Times.