Groundbreakings are generally ceremonial: It’s a photo op for the players, an opportunity to fill a dais, the creation of a spectacle sometimes involving golden shovels or custom hard hats.

But— again, generally — these symbolic groundbreakings actually symbolize something, usually the beginning of construction on a significant project.

But the groundbreaking for the Tanger Performing Arts Center in downtown Greensboro, which will occupy a dirt lot near LeBauer Park, symbolized nothing so much as the participants’ willingness to commit a farce.

We can’t blame them for trying.

The project has been moving forward on its own steam since then-Mayor Robbie Perkins started soft-selling it in February 2012, a couple weeks after he won an election during which he had not once said a word about a downtown performing arts center.

Money was raised, plans were drawn, land was purchased. Boston’s House of Jazz moved out and the building was razed. LeBauer Park came together wonderfully. But the site for the entertainment complex has never evolved beyond the scratched patch of dirt that we’ve been looking at for four years.

People were talking. Investors were having doubts. The News & Record sealed it with a couple stories by Margaret Banks back in March listing the unanswered questions generated by the project. The groundbreaking was announced within a week.

So last week a dais full of luminaries — the mayor, the governor, the director of the Greensboro Coliseum and other key stakeholders — made their speeches and worked their gold-plated shovels into the ceremonial sand.

Still no final budget has been approved by council, no work permits have been secured, no construction contract is in place and no date has been set to begin construction of Phase I.

It made for a nice photo op. But sand wasn’t the only thing they were shoveling.

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