The fate of the Johnny Mercer Theatre may soon be decided. Opposing arguments are made to either renovate or demolish the facility. However, I have not seen serious discussion about the real, measurable impact if the Theatre were lost. Before a decision, there is an undeniable need for a viable and concrete solution for a comparable venue.
With professional performing arts experience, I can safely say Savannah needs a mid-size venue. The 9K-seat arena is too big, the 338-seat Arts Center is too small, and the 1200-seat Lucas is half the seating capacity and has limited availability. It is also likely that Savannah would be taken off most tour circuits.
Generally, the location of the Municipal Auditorium is available. Use the hotel/motel tax designed to help drive tourism for funding. I’ll take the risk and suggest funds have been misallocated for years to cover non-tourism costs. Also, with an approved rate increase comes the freedom to spend the revenue without it being limited to tourism.
The Mercer contributes to tourism, economic impact, and quality of life; without a solution, the City is guaranteed to feel the effects for years to come.
Patrick A. Kelsey
Arts and Culture Alliance of Chatham County