BELMONT, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Belmont Abbey College, a private four-year Catholic institution, and Gaston County received a generous $9 million fundraising boost recently, thanks to North Carolina legislators and taxpayers.

Rep. John Torbett and Sen. Brad Overcash joined college officials for the announcement at the school’s homecoming on Saturday evening, Oct. 7, during a Haid Theatre performance. 

The government officials presented a ceremonial check to Dr. William Thierfelder on stage. The money will go toward a performing arts center at the college. 

According to the state’s Joint Conference Committee Report on Current Operations Appropriations Act of 2023, the money will come from the ARPA Temporary Savings Fund ($2.25 million), an additional grant ($4.5 million), and the Office of State Budget and Management ($2.25 million).

“The Performing Arts Center at Belmont Abbey College will greatly enrich the lives of the people in our community,” Overcash said in an email. “I am proud of the $9 million appropriation to create this important community resource.”

Overcash said the performing arts center would be built with “full community input” with “approximately 25 leaders in the arts community from across the county” who would be part of the project’s Community Leadership Advisory Committee.

The group will meet later this month to give “input for the study, programming, and conceptual design for construction of the performing arts center.”

According to the college’s statement, the group would “solicit and collect input from the college’s constituents and other subject matter experts in the community to formulate recommendations that will be developed into a report that would include conceptual drawings and suggested programming in the center.”

College streams of funding 

The project’s funding comes on the heels of the school’s $100 million “Made True” campaign this past summer. The school earmarked $15 million in that plan for a new monastery and the performing arts center.

More than half of the school’s campaign ($55 million) is working toward “boosting the college’s endowment and reducing – eventually eliminating – federal aid, as well as providing the financial resources needed to become the employer of choice among its peers.” 

The school champions its need to “teach and live the Catholic faith without government mandates that might conflict with Church teaching. In addition, federal college loan programs have been unreliable and variable in their ability to make education affordable.”

Queen City News asked Belmont Abbey College about the difference between a state grant and federal funding, but we did not get a response as of publication.

Queen City News asked who would be on the Community Leadership Advisory Committee and if that included officials like Gaston County Manager Dr. Kim Eagle, but college officials did not immediately respond. QCN also asked who initiated the work to get the state money, but Overcash and the college did not respond to that question either.

College officials noted that the school had the land available on its 37.5-acre property. 

When asked if there would be any issue with possible controversial plays like “Fiddler on the Roof” or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” Overcash said that those decisions for the future center are “far too early in the process” to be made. However, the representative said he would not be involved in those decisions.

Founded in 1876, Belmont Abbey College is home to more than 1,500 students.

What others are saying about the project

“I am extremely proud to be a part of the building of Belmont Abbey’s success through the building of a world-class cultural destination. This performing arts center will assist in growing the talents of our youth as well as presenting the talents of professional artists. I am especially honored to have played a part with so many others in support of the Abbey,” – N.C. Representative John Torbett.

“The new performing arts center would directly connect to the County’s adopted strategic plan by supporting two of our own strategic focus areas: Economic Development and Planned growth, Recreational, Cultural, and Life-Long Learning Opportunities. Taken together, our community strategic plans and visions would directly benefit from the addition of this community asset and would advance our goals to provide a warm welcoming community that is the premier destination to live, work, and play in the Charlotte region.” – Gaston County Manager Dr. Kim Eagle

“The (Gaston Business Association) recognizes Gaston County’s artistic and cultural assets, such as the proposed performing arts center on the campus of Belmont Abbey College, are essential to sustaining economic growth. We are encouraged by the recognition of this facility’s ability to address arts events and performance needs of not only BAC but also those of the broader Gaston arts community.” – GBA President/CEO Patrick Mumford