The proposed Richmond Hill Performing Arts Center came one step closer to reality on Feb. 19, when city council approved to have an engineer see if the old Richmond Hill Elementary gym is structurally sound enough to house a 760-seat performing arts center.
At the last Bryan County Board of Education meeting, city officials and others in the community approached school officials about purchasing the old gym after the new elementary school is built.
The BoE gave the go-ahead and agreed to lease it to the city for a $1 fee.
Mayor Richard Davis said the old elementary school will be used for administrative offices, so the schools would not need the old gym. He also said that it would give Arts on the Coast what they have been striving to get for years and that a facility such as this would enhance the community.
Davis also said he visited a performing arts center in Glennville that had been donated to that city and spoke of what an asset it turned into for them – reinforcing his theories on this project.
The school board approved the deal last month, but city manager Mike Melton said if the engineers clear it, the gym won’t begin renovation until RHES moves – which takes place approximately 12-18 months from now.
Melton presented a sketch of the proposed facility which included bleachers, a stage and dressing rooms.
Melton said there is no date set for the engineer to come back with his findings, but this issue will be brought back before council in the near future.
A committee that includes Davis has been formed to create the center if the historic gym is structurally sound.
Davis said the committee plans to create a foundation and start looking into funding, including grants.
"An arts center would be a tremendous artistic asset to this community," Committee Chairman Linda Barker said. "Residents currently have to go out of town to enjoy most entertainment events, and this could change that. We look to draw national and local acts alike. And not just for music or theater – we could open the floor and have art exhibits. We want this project to have tons of community involvement because that’s who this center is for."