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Jeffery Kin and Michelle Bianchi of The Players Centre update a meeting of  the theater'  s "ambassadors'   about the progress being made toward moving to Lakewood Ranch.
East County Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017 3 years ago

Players theater will need focus on fundraising

New theater at Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch may be constructed in stages, as funding becomes available.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Michelle Bianchi, CEO and managing director of The Players Centre for the Performing Arts, made it clear her board would continue to hold the asking price at $12.5 million for its property at 838 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

Bianchi addressed 25 “ambassadors” for the group at a special function April 17 at The Lake Club clubhouse. Bianchi and Artistic Director Jeffery Kin gave a progress report about the Players Centre’s move to Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch.

Kin said there has been interest in the theater and its 1.77-acre parcel, but so far, prospects are just “tire kickers.”

The theater announced its move to Lakewood Ranch in May 2016. Ian Black Real Estate is the listing brokerage.

With what Bianchi said is “the last unobstructed view of the bay,” she is confident the group will get its asking price.

The new theater complex will cost $30 million, so either The Players must sell its existing theater, which it owns outright, or the group must put together a successful capital drive.

“The white elephant in the room is that we need money,” Bianchi said.

Although The Players Centre for Performing Arts will be a $30 million project, Bianchi said it could be constructed in three parts, roughly $10 million during  each phase. Bianchi told the group the first phase would include the cabaret theater.

The idea would be for the theater to be operating as it courts new donors.

The Players Centre is trying to form as many alliances as possible in Lakewood Ranch.

“We have to be saturating the area with information,” Bianchi said.

Kin said it is important to give people in the area a taste of what The Players Centre offers.

“There has been nothing here to preclude us to let people know what they’ve been missing,” he said.

The Players Centre will begin Star Storytelling Theatre at the Ranch, a series for children ages 5 to 12 that begins June 10 and runs on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon once a month through Oct. 14. Actors from The Players Centre will read some of their favorite children’s stories and act through some of the scenes. The series, which will be held at Sarasota Polo Club’s clubhouse, costs $15 per child and includes a book.

Spots can be reserved by calling 365-2494 or by going to

Bianchi also said the new theater complex will have open offices to allow other arts organizations to align with The Players.

Also at the meeting, officials announced various naming opportunities for the theaters and other facilities in the complex.

Kin admitted a certain amount of pressure is building to raise the first $10 million. 

“We want to build the Phase 1 along with (Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s other development at Waterside Place) because we don’t want to be the missing tooth,” he said.

Lakewood Ranch’s Lou Marinaccio, who has been a backer of the theater group, continues to be optimistic.

“We have something very special coming our way,” Marinaccio said. “For those who live in Lakewood Ranch, it’s going to be in your backyard.”

Lakewood Ranch entrepreneur Rod Williams said he is sure the project will move along.

“One of the biggest attributes you can have is belief in your product,” Williams said. “Yes, this is going to go. People want an experience, and they are willing to pay premier dollars for a high-level entertainment. It just takes patience and persistence.”

Monaca Onstad of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch hosted the special gathering.

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