By Chris Mowder • ListenUpMB@Gmail.com
It’s been more than a decade in the making, but Scott Payseur is finally on the cusp of living a dream he’s had since he was a teenager.
“For me, personally, this is something I’ve been thinking about for 28 years, since I was in middle school,” said the executive director of Myrtle Beach’s Ground Zero teen ministry.
That dream, to give teenagers a facility where they can come to find God, has manifested in the form of Ground Zero’s new teen club, which is currently being constructed inside the former Rivoli Theatre in downtown Myrtle Beach.
Payseur and crew, who leased the building from the city for $1 per year last June, began working on the exterior more than a year ago and started renovation of the interior this spring.
“We really started inside here in February and March, we took a little time off in April and May for the Dragon Boat Festival and Beach Blast [Music Festival] and then in the summer we had mission teams come in about every week. Now we’re trying to pick up the pace again this fall and really get things to where they need to be,” he said.
The group expects the $1.8 million renovation project to be done by Feb. 2, 2013, the date Ground Zero has set for opening night.
Scheduled to feature music from Shonlock — a member of TobyMac’s The Diverse City Band — a performance by illusionist Dave Maze and a display of flatland BMX stunts, opening night is the first of nearly 20 events announced for the club’s spring schedule.
Some of the other events scheduled so far include an appearance by Harlem Globetrotter Melvin Adams on Feb. 3, Satellites & Sirens on Feb. 9, Manic Drive on Feb. 16, Silverline on March 9, comedian Michael Jr. on March 16 and many more. (See website for full schedule).
The club will aim to provide a variety of entertainment for teens including Christian musicians, comedians, athletes and other entertainers with the lion’s share of concerts taking place on Saturday nights.
The new venue’s capacity will be about 750 students, slightly smaller than the 1,000 that can fit in Christ United Methodist Church where Ground Zero currently hosts its events. Still, Payseur thinks the appeal of the club will be well worth the sacrifice.
“We feel like once students see everything we have planned for this building they will want to come back here every Saturday night,” he said.
He says that if selling out shows and having to turn students away at the door becomes a common problem, he and his staff will adjust by doubling up performances in the same day.
“The last thing I want is a group of kids traveling down here from Wilmington or somewhere and getting turned away,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to get people in the habit from the get go of coming online to get tickets. Even though they may be free tickets we want people to know they will need to reserve them.”
In addition to its Saturday shows, Ground Zero has also arranged for many of the groups it has lined up to pull double duty while visiting Myrtle Beach, performing a club set on Saturday night and coming back on Sunday night to perform a set of worship songs.
“Not all Christian bands are worship bands,” said Payseur. “Many of the ones we work with don’t even have a set of worship tunes, but we were very intentional and deliberate about strategically planning and working with bands so they could overlap and find different ways to introduce students to some of the music that’s going on.”
Though Ground Zero won’t host a weekly church service, it will host Sunday shows once a month. These speaker-focused events will be an extension of its current series at Christ UMC and will showcase a guest speaker accompanied by a worship band.
Upcoming events in the series include a dramatic arts ministry led by Emory Colvin on Nov. 11 and a special holiday telling of the story of Christ’s birth by sand artist Joe Castillo — who recently finished 5th on this season of “America’s Got Talent” — on Dec. 9.
Other future plans include larger, ticketed events with bigger-name artists during the week and even the possibility of opening the venue up to use by other local and regional groups.
“There are some really great opportunities to open this area up to the public and let them see what we’re doing here,” said Payseur. “There are some stipulations on what we’ll allow, including that we’ll be able to share who we are with them, but I see some big things happening down the line.”
Building from Ground Zero
Though Payseur has been dreaming of opening a club since he was a child, the real start of the big things he’s doing now started when he and his wife, Kimberly, founded Ground Zero in 1998.
Payseur, who was working as a youth pastor in northeast Tennessee at the time, said that from the beginning he looked to find a way to reach teens without being overly aggressive or “churchy.”
“The definition of Ground Zero is ‘a point of impact,’” he said. “Our goal was to find a name that was marketable and represented what we were about but that wasn’t ‘churchy’ because of the students we wanted to try to reach.”
After a few years of staging outreach events for teenagers, Payseur shifted his focus south and in 2006 began hosting monthly worship events in Myrtle Beach.
Since moving to Myrtle Beach full-time in 2007, Ground Zero has done its best to build a foundation for its operations by starting campus ministries at many local schools and recruiting volunteers to help with its cause.
“When we started the ministry it was always with the intention of doing this, but what we decided was let’s not built a facility and hope a ministry comes out of it, let's build a ministry and hope a facility comes someday,” he said.
In addition its outreach the group has built a strong base of community support by organizing a number of popular events including the annual Ground Zero Dragon Boat Festival, the Beach Blast Christian Music Festival and a series of live music events featuring Christian artists.
“If you look at all the clubs around the area, if you take alcohol or women out of that equation, they’re going to close ... When you’re thinking of a Christian club, now you have to figure out what is the revenue stream,” said Payseur. “So for us we knew we had to get into the community and build a ministry that’s in schools, working with churches and connecting with students and then be able to put the icing on the cake with this place.”
Now the group is hoping to cash in on some of that legwork, asking members of the community to volunteer and help finish the project.
“One of the big things we need right now is volunteers to help with our work days every Saturday. We’re here usually from about 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. … even if you don’t know how to build or work with your hands, just having extra hands to do things is very helpful,” he said.
In addition, Ground Zero is still working diligently to raise the final $180,000 needed to complete construction, buy furniture and equipment and put the finishing touches on the new club.
Payseur says the group has received plenty of generous gifts from individuals and organizations to get them this close, however, recent efforts to tap into grants and funds from groups such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and other organizations have come up dry.
“It’s almost as though God has said ‘No single person is going to do this,’ and so we’re focusing on all sort of different ways to make this happen so that when it’s done there’s only one person that’s going to get the glory for this and that’s Him,” said Payseur.
Staring in October Ground Zero began hosting Vision Nights, which offer a chance to tour the new facility, ask questions to Payseur and his staff and, learn more about the project.
“We hope that by having people come down here, we’ll run into people who will see it, hear it, be moved by it and get engaged with it by giving or helping out,” he said.
Ground Zero will host Vision Nights on Nov. 1,8 and 15 at 6 p.m. each night. For a full schedule of events or to register online visit groundzeromb.com or call 497-0580.
About The Renovation
Here's some other details about what's being done to the interior of the former Rivloi Theater:
• Stage area: A new stage is being built on top of the previous, U-Shaped stage. The new stage is larger, running across the back wall of the facility, is raised about 8 ½ inches and will feature a state-of-the-art video screens and LEDs. In addition, walls are being built on each side of the stage to allow limited access to backstage.
• Green Room: The backstage green room will include a living room, kicthen, washer and dryer and two bathrooms with showers. “A lot of the bands we work with bring their families on tour with them on a bus. So it’s nice for them to be able to get off that bus, stretch their legs and just have a place that’s theirs’” said Payseur.
• Retail store: Stage left will be a merchandise store filled with Ground Zero apparel and other items. This will also serve as the membership area, where high school students can sign up to become Ground Zero members. Becoming a member offers free admission to most of the club’s events.
• Cutting corners: The club is being designed with safety in mind. “We’ve done a lot to keep people from being able to sort of float around and get into a dark corner. If you notice when you walk through there really aren’t any areas students can get where they aren’t visible,” touts Payseur.
• Lounge areas: In each of the back corners of the concert hall are elevated areas where teens can hang out and lounge around on couches, play video games, watch TV or observe the show below.
• Cafe area: At the top of the seating area will be a “light menu” food area separated from the main hall by a glass window. In addition to its small kitchen, the area will feature tables and booths, arcade games and TV screens to show what’s happening outside.
• Coffee Bar: In the main lobby of the new club will be a colorful coffee bar area “just like a Starbucks.” The goal is to keep this area open all week long during the day so that the surrounding community can stop in and use it. “This will be like our glorified reception desk up here,” said Payseur.