Nurturing the arts in Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone, as we reported today, that the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts will likely need assistance with operating expenses once it opens next spring.

Critics of the project have contended that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for the facility’s operation and while that may turn out to be partly correct (The city has not bee approached about providing operating money for the facility), it won’t be a crippling amount and what residents will receive in return for any investment will be worth it.

The center is already paying dividends and has been for years. The promise of such a facility’s presence has been a big catalyst for much of the transformation of downtown Suffolk. Investors and developers like Mickey Garcia, Deme Panagopolous, John Brown and Mickey Boyette, will all attest to the weight carried by the center, as well as the Hilton, in their decision to invest here.

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And while the economic impact of the center is sure to be significant, there are other, equally important though less tangible benefits that will accrue. The amenities offered by the center will be first class. Who could have imagined as recently as a decade ago that we would be on the verge of having live theatrical performances, a quality senior center, classroom space for arts and technology right at our fingertips?

Fortunately, some people did imagine such things and in large part through their vision and hard work, downtown Suffolk will be among the most dynamic communities not only in Hampton Roads, but the entire state and region.

As Betsy Brothers and Michael Bollinger pointed out in our story today, the economic benefits of the arts are indisputable and neighboring communities have generously supported their presence. Suffolk needs to do the same and make sure that the arts are nurtured here now and well into the future. We’ll be getting a bargain.