Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission on Monday agreed to nearly match the city’s recent $3.1 million commitment toward TheatreSquared’s new home in downtown Fayetteville.
Commissioners voted unanimously to give the local non-profit theatre company $200,000 each year for the next 15 years, for a total of $3 million.
The planned facility is set for construction at the southeast corner of West Avenue and Spring Street. The new building will sit across the street from Nadine Baum Studios where TheatreSquared currently rents space, and one block south of the Walton Arts Center’s campus on Dickson Street.
The new venue will feature two performance stages, and will include rehearsal areas, costume and prop shops, dressing rooms, a green room, and administrative offices. Public common areas with educational and gathering spaces are also included in the plans.
TheatreSquared officials last month made a formal request for $3.1 million, stating that they believe the project is a perfect fit for the taxpayer dollars the commission receives to advertise and promote the city.
Fayetteville collects a 2 percent tax on hotel and motel stays and prepared food sales at restaurants (HMR tax). Half of the money goes toward parks maintenance, operations and capital improvements, while the other 1 percent goes to the A&P Commission.
Martin Miller, TheatreSquared’s executive director, said 48 percent of the over 40,000 people who attended a T2 performance last year came from outside Fayetteville. Of those out-of-towners, he said 59 percent reported having purchased a meal or drink either before or after the show.
Molly Rawn, the commission’s executive director, initially recommended the commission put $2 million toward the project, by budgeting $200,000 annually over 10 years.
Rawn said the $225,000 the commission budgeted this year for improvements needed at the Walker-Stone House would be freed up for use beginning in 2018, and could be reduced to $200,000 to be given to TheatreSquared. In a memo to commissioners, Rawn encouraged support for the investment, but stopped short of recommending the full $3.1 million request.
“While I believe this is an excellent project, I do not believe our organization can take on a commitment of this size without negatively impacting operations and existing programs,” Rawn wrote.
Adella Gray, who serves on the commission as one of two required City Council members alongside chair Matthew Petty, said she appreciated Rawn’s conservative approach, but questioned the need for restraint.
Gray pointed to the steady growth of the commission, which last year exceeded its record for annual revenue collected with a total of $3.3 million. It was an 8 percent increase over 2015, and marked the fourth consecutive year for an uptick in HMR funds.
Gray proposed adding another five years to the timeline to increase the commitment to $3 million.
Commissioner Robert Rhoads agreed, noting that the $34 million facility will still need a lot of support from other sources. Rhoads said a bold tax dollar commitment could have a much more positive impact on the decisions of private investors, who sometimes gauge public support when considering funding for large-scale projects.
“I dare say most of the voters of Fayetteville would probably say this is a project that screams what Fayetteville is about,” Rhoads said. “And that this is a project that will prove valuable in dollars and cents to our community.”
After the vote, T2 artistic director Bob Ford was nearly moved to tears.
“This is really huge, and we take it deeply to heart,” Ford said. “We will do you really proud.”
Miller said the public should expect to soon be invited to a groundbreaking ceremony for the project, which is set for construction this year. If all goes according to plan, the new facility should be open in time for TheatreSquared’s 2019 season.
Renderings of the planned venue
Renderings by Kilograph / Courtesy TheatreSquared