Ocean City News | Ocean City’s New Performing Arts Center Opens (2022)

Ocean City News | Ocean City’s New Performing Arts Center Opens (1)

Roland E. Powell Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino and Mayor Rick Meehan are pictured on the stage of the new Performing Arts Center this week. Photo by Joanne Shriner

OCEAN CITY – On Monday afternoon, Mayor Rick Meehan and Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino gave a tour of Roland E. Powell Convention Center’s new Performing Arts Center (PAC) prior to Wednesday’s kick-off event.

The mayor recalled at the end of January 2013 the Town of Ocean City celebrated the completion of Phase I revealing the new Bay Front Ballroom and Trimper Dockside Exhibit Hall.

The Bay Front Ballroom is on the building’s second floor with its entire back wall covered in floor-to-ceiling windows as it faces the bay. The Trimper Dockside Exhibit Hall is directly below the ballroom on the first floor, is similar in size and also takes advantage of the bay view.

The 32,000-square-foot, first-phase expansion began in August of 2011 was a $9 million expense with $5 million paid by the Town of Ocean City with a half of a cent on the resort’s food tax rate dedicated to the project and the remaining $4.3 million paid by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA).

The construction of the Performing Arts Center (PAC) is Phase II of the convention center’s expansion that began in October of 2013 with demolition work in the old sections of Hall C on the ground floor of the convention center and a demising wall going up on the second floor in what used to be part of Halls A and B. The floor-to-ceiling demising wall separates the relatively new bayfront ballroom on the second floor.

The PAC will host concerts, musicals and theatrical productions, as well as seminars with its state-of-the-art equipment and two tiered seating featuring a little over 1,200 seats, dressing rooms, concession areas and a box office.

Phase II cost $14 million and is also being funded in part by the MSA with $5.7 million and the town of Ocean City is funding the remaining $8.3 million, which is covered by a 2013 bond issue.

“We are now ready to open,” Mayor Meehan said on Monday. “It is here for a number of reasons; a focal point for entertainment in Ocean City; to add value for our existing convention center customers, who will be utilizing it as an auditorium and PAC; to stay competitive within the market place; and to extend the stay of our visitors.”

Guests will enter a pre-function area that is located in the far north hallway of the convention center adjacent to the box office. Bars can be set up in the pre-function area where beverages will be available prior to entering the auditorium. When the pre-function area is not being used for the PAC, it can also be rented for exhibit space.

“We have tried to make everything as versatile as possible,” the mayor said.

The tour moved to the top tier of seating, where the loges, or box seats, are located on both sides. Looking up toward the ceiling, large sound absorption panels are spread across the ceiling below the catwalks where crews help operate productions.

Noccolino pointed out the “worst seat in the house”, according to the theatre consultant, was the end seats in the last row on the top tier. The Dispatch can attest all can be seen from those seats.

“There is not a bad seat in the house,” the mayor said. “That is what we wanted to do here. With 1,200-plus seats, this is the place where people want to come because anywhere they sit they are part of the show. It is a different type of experience.”

The mayor pointed out the proscenium opening of the stage, which is an arched section in front of the stage where additional seating can be added, used as the orchestra pit, or a platform stage can extend the stage area by 20 feet to accommodate performances, such dance groups.

“Also to make that whole stage area usable for events other than concerts and meetings, again to make it versatile,” the mayor said.

The back of the house provides a loading dock where equipment can be loaded directly on stage, or tour buses can pull in and performers can walk directly to the dressing rooms and the green room.

The kick-off event was held on Wednesday with the Worcester County Economic Development presenting the 2015 Economic Development Summit in conjunction with the Ocean City

Ocean City News | Ocean City’s New Performing Arts Center Opens (2)

This is the view from the so-called worst seat in the house, according to city officials.

Economic Development Committee (EDC). The event featured economist Anirban Basu with an economic update for Worcester County, Ocean City and the Lower Eastern Shore plus an update on Maryland offshore wind.

“What a great day in Ocean City and Worcester County,” said Worcester County Economic Development Director Bill Badger on Wednesday at the summit. “It’s a privilege to be the first event in this beautiful new facility and have this economic summit here. I think you’re going to very excited about what you’re going to hear today.”

Ocean City EDC Chairman Michael James added, “This is a great example of government, citizens and the community coming together.”

Meehan was also in attendance on Wednesday and pointed out the convention center expansion project did not lose exhibit space but actually created 30,000 square feet of new space for conventions and special events.

“We want to continue our partnership with the state of Maryland. They paid 41 percent of the cost of this facility which was a positive contribution from our partner. There were no General Fund contributions for this. Ocean City’s share was paid with a penny on the tax rate dedicated to it,” the mayor said. “This is another step in the progression to continue to make Ocean City a sustainable community.”

The first performance on the new PAC’s stage will take place on Saturday with the “Deep in the Heart of Christmas” show by the Texas Tenors, joined by special guest, The Reminders.

The Texas Tenors, featuring JC Fisher, Marcus Collins and John Hagen, sing country, pop, classical, Broadway and much more in this fun filled entertaining show. The group formed in 2009, the same year it made its television debut on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, becoming the highest ranking vocal group in the history of the show. Since then, the group’s fame has continued to grow as it has played to sold out venues worldwide and had its own PBS “You Should Dream” TV Special and featured in a theatre show in Branson, Mo.

Tickets are on sale now at the convention center box office, 410-723-8601 or call Ticketmaster 1-800-551-SEAT. Prices are $35, $45, and $55.Visitwww.oceancityconcerts.com for more show information.

The Mayor’s Open House will be held at the convention center on Jan. 1 from 1-3 p.m. showcasing the new PAC. This will be the first year in the event’s 18-year history that the Mayor’s Open House will be held away from Town Hall.

Visitors will meet with the Mayor and City Council, and view the pictorial history of the convention center, while also having the privilege to enjoy a first-look of the auditorium.Free entertainment will be provided by Bryan Russo with several special guest performances.

Also participating inside of the event are several of the town’s community partners, while outside the festively decorated convention center, the Ocean City Fire Department will have equipment on display and also back by popular community demand will be the mounted police and canine units of the Ocean City Police Department.

The PAC’s official ribbon cutting will take place on Jan. 17, which is Martin Luther holiday weekend, when the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Julien Benichou will perform, along with the Ocean City Stars.

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