New Study Demonstrates Positive Economic Impact Of Local Performing Arts Centers


A recent study undertaken for Community Vision Hilton Head Inc., a local volunteer organization proposing development of a worldclass local performing arts center on Hilton Head Island, has found that such facilities are having a positive economic impact on similar communities across the United States.Funded solely by members of the nonprofit organization, the study was conducted this summer by University of South Carolina Beaufort researcher Catherine Moorman, who previously has worked on projects for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing PGA Tour golf tournament, the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance, and other South Carolina events.

Walt Graver, the founder of Community Vision, said the research was commissioned to provide data for the Town of Hilton Head Island's Arts & Cultural Strategic Planning Committee. The research was collected from seven performing arts venues in non-metropolitan areas with similar characteristics to Hilton Head. These included nationally recognized resort areas such as Aspen and Vail, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Lenox, Massachusetts, home of the legendary Tanglewood Music Center. Community leaders in Greenville were also interviewed about the city’s Peace Center performing arts facility.

Community Vision2The study showed that all seven venues produced major economic impacts for their communities, which was defined as "value added" to the community, whether that be an influx of revenue from tourists or by successful education and training programs. Another common denominator was that all have strong public/private support, which includes local resident participation.

In addition, based on its size and type, a multi-purpose indoor/outdoor facility that includes a 1,500-seat indoor venue and an outdoor amphitheatre that will accommodate 5,000, the Community Visionproposed Hilton Head complex compares favorably to all seven venues studied in terms of patronage, potential economic impact and job creation.

The smallest of the venues analyzed has an annual economic impact of $25 million, while the largest generates $200 million. The average is just over $76 million.

Hilton Head’s proposed venue would offer events year-round, catering to a combined tourist/resident audience during the peak summer months, and then focusing on activities that will be of greater interest to local residents during "off-season" months.

The new research appears to validate Community Vision's earlier assertions that such a local facility could be operated efficiently not only because a large percentage of its staff would consist of volunteers but also due to Internet technology marketing and ticketing efficie - cies that have become widely available in recent years. Five of the studied venues report more than 50 percent of their staffing comes from volunteers.

Dan Castro, vice president of Community Vision, said "these fin - ings effectively rebut skeptics who have claimed Hilton Head cannot support a performing arts center, and who insist such a facility would likely become an expensive boondoggle rather than a genuine economic driver."

According to Paul Gibson, the organization's treasurer, "the findings clearly show that in every case by having a local performing arts center a positive economic impact results; and it also helps set the destination apart from regional competitors in terms of perceived quality of life."

The 2015 study supports a 2013 market research report Community Vision commissioned from Region Transactions Concepts, which had projected a performing arts pavilion on Hilton Head with the scope Community Vision has recommended would have an economic impact of $78 million to $111 million a year for each of its first five years.

Moreover, Graver affirms the proposed facility will also offer a very significan additional benefit "The fact is, that without a thriving arts and cultural scene," he said, "Hilton Head Island will never reach its full potential in attracting visitors who are looking for more than just good weather, beautiful beaches and golf.”

“By having a truly world-class performing arts venue, Hilton Head Island's reputation as a ‘preferred’ destination for travelers of all ages will be enhanced,” he added. Such a venue would not only broaden the economic diversific tion of the island, but with appropriate programming it will also attract a clientele with a higher demographic profile — one that has greater appeal to area hoteliers, restaurant operators and realtors.

Castro strongly believes a new performing arts venues will provide a number of high-quality jobs and additional tax and fee revenues for both the town and Beaufort County.

"So, when you look objectively at the facts reported in our two separate studies, it's hard to make a reasonable argument against the proposed venue," said Castro.

To receive a copy of Community Vision’s Impact Study, email Castro at