Deadline for cities seeking music hall of fame

Organizations in five cities submitted proposals to host the Georgia Music Hall of Fame by the Dec. 10, 5 p.m. deadline, offering detailed accounts of how they might turn around the money-losing operation.

Most suitors hand-delivered their proposals to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority in Macon, the city that currently hosts the museum. Submitting proposals were organizations in Dunwoody, Athens, Woodstock, Macon and Dahlonega.

Built in 1996 for $6.6 million, the immense Macon facility was intended to attract 100,000 visitors a year, but recently drew only about a quarter of that number. Last year, the state provided most of the museum’s $880,000 budget. This year, the state reduced its funding to $386,000 and the General Assembly ordered the authority to seek bids from new hosts.

Atlanta-area cities bidding on the project stressed that the 5 million residents of the metro area and the millions of tourists who visit each year would offer the best support for the hall of fame. Instead of 27,000 visiting the Hall of Fame in Macon, “if we could go to 100,000 or 150,000, it makes it a success story instead of a problem,” said Bob Kinsey, CEO of the Spruill Center for the Arts in Dunwoody. Kinsey pointed out that 18 million people visit Dunwoody's Perimeter Mall yearly.

Dunwoody boosters have offered the five-acre tract that houses the Spruill Gallery as a site for the transplanted hall of fame. The acreage would house a museum and a new performing arts venue.

“We have had a dream of turning that property into an arts campus,” Kinsey said. “Having the Georgia Music Hall of Fame here would complement us very well, and we’d complement them very well.”

Representatives of Woodstock drove to Macon with their bid Friday morning, and stressed that the city, though 30 miles from downtown Atlanta, has demographics similar to Dunwoody's. "I don’t think we’re at a disadvantage for size," said Woodstock mayor Donnie Henriques.

The city draws from the same population that attends the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, which drew 100,000 visitors in its inaugural year, Henriques said.

“I think if someone comes to Atlanta to do some sightseeing, and music is one of their things, coming 30 miles north is not a big deal.”

Neither Fulton County nor the City of Atlanta submitted bids to host the museum, according to the hall of fame's website. Fulton Commissioner Rob Pitts criticized the hall of fame authority for failing to notify the county in time to make the deadline, though authority members said e-mails were sent to all county commissions.

Pitts said Fulton County is the logical home for the museum, because of the concentration of tourist dollars there, and suggested the county might create a competing organization.

The hall of fame authority will form an evaluation team that will weigh each proposal based on its conceptual and financial strengths. A key concern for the authority will be the stewardship of the hall of fame's varied collection of Georgia musical memorabilia, including 13,000 recordings, 2,600 photographs, 300 musical instruments and 250 costumes and performance outfits. The collection includes one of Chet Atkins' guitars and wigs and dresses worn by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of the B-52s.