Sarasota’s cultural corridor is expanding. What an epicenter of arts, theatre, museums and highly rated colleges is found along Tamiami Trail and its tributaries that lead to dramatic iconic haunts including the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, New College of Florida, Ringling School of Art & Design, Selby Gardens and many equally impressive sites.
Time and tradition have honored these venues with generous donors, loyal attendees, and a community that embraces artistic expression from visible works of arts in the parks to public pianos meant for all hands to play. This is a community whose lovely proximity to Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico could sustain itself with tourist dollars alone. But the highly-respected arts and cultural scene have distinguished Sarasota from similar cities along Southwest Florida. With expansion and an interested influx of people stretching the capacity of roads, parking, and freedom to move, the natural progression is for some venues to look in new directions for expansion. Such is the case with The Players Centre for Performing Arts who will be taking the stage in Lakewood Ranch with new facilities and loyal fans in tow.
The Players Theatre is the area’s oldest performing arts facility. With over 80 years at its current location on North Tamiami Trail, thousands of shows and droves of people have enjoyed live local theatre. Generations of Sarasota residents have benefited from the excitement of a live performance, and revenue generated from people visiting the area for its rich cultural experiences, eventually making the move to Sarasota. Players Theatre is a significant piece of the artistic tapestry that adorns Sarasota, and for a cool $12.5 million, the last unobstructed view of Sarasota Bay along the cultural corridor could be yours.
The Players Centre for Performing Arts in Lakewood Ranch is expected to be the crown jewel of the Waterside project. Including a 480-seat main stage theater, 120-seat cabaret, restaurant area, and room for expansion to seat another 100 attendees, the three-theater complex will also allow for adequate parking and is situated so many in the community could enjoy a leisurely stroll to enjoy a performance. To Michelle Bianchi Pingel, managing director and CEO, this is the true meaning of “community theater.” She is encouraged by the warm welcome Players Theatre has received since the decision to move was announced. “The activities coordinator and everyone at Lakewood Ranch have been so welcoming, and we have at least 12 events already scheduled for speaking engagements or performances over the next few months.” Some other exciting ventures ahead include a story-telling theater for younger children and even a rendition of Sleepy Hollow to be performed on the Polo Field around Halloween.
Until the lights are dimmed and curtain is drawn in their new digs, an extensive fundraising campaign is in full swing, with a substantial bulk of the budget coming from the sale of the existing property.
Donations from theatre patrons and substantial fundraisers when ground is broken is expected to make the transition to Lakewood Ranch seamless. The property is in a split-zoned area, allowing for the possibility of an 18-story condominium project. The ideal buyer would allow Sarasota Players to occupy the building on a lease basis until their new project was ready for move-in. The new location at Lakewood Ranch is a long-anticipated artistic amenity that residents there have lobbied for.
If you would like more information on The Players Centre for Performing Arts, please visit their website at www.theplayers.org.
Photos courtesy of Players Centre for Performing Arts Facebook page.