Plans for a new library in Lakewood Ranch might be creating an opportunity for more conference space in Manatee County.
Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea said the Manatee County Convention and Visitors Bureau is recommending the use of $5 million in tourist tax revenues to add a second level to the future library, which is currently under design by Lakewood Ranch-based contractor Willis Smith Construction.
Manatee County is looking to find more space for conference and meeting needs, particularly as it prepares to embark on a roughly $18 million renovation and expansion of the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto. That project, if approved by county commissioners, will be done largely to complement construction of a new, privately owned Sheraton hotel on property adjacent to the convention center.
The improvements include remodeling, adding a new building and adding an air-conditioned connection to the hotel.
Coryea said that during renovations and after the hotel opens and uses the space for conferences and conventions, there will be a need for other meeting venues.
“Every time we’re building a new facility, we’re trying to add conference space,” Coryea said. “This was the first opportunity.”
Coryea said Willis Smith Construction has advised the county that adding a second level to the library building would be more cost effective — by about $5 million — compared to doing it at a later time.
“If you have to come back and add it, it’s going to triple the price,” Coryea said.
Manatee County has allocated $10 million specifically for the future library at Lakewood Ranch. She said long-term, the space could be converted into a second level for the library.
Coryea said that will pay for only about 24,000 square feet of library space.
The space above the library would be one large room able to accommodate up to 300 people. It could be used for meetings, such as County Commission workshops, awards ceremonies for events at Premier Sports Campus or even sporting-related expos.
An elevator would be required for handicapped access.
“We would like the ability to access the upstairs space from an area that can be used if the library is closed,” Coryea said. “The additional thought is that the conference space could have a balcony, so that it can be utilized to observe the other amenities of the complex.
Commissioners will have to approve expenditures of tourism tax revenues and are scheduled to meet to review the CVB’s recommendations March 17.
During discussions Feb. 25, Commissioner Misty Servia asked county staff members to continue working on the project and then present more details during the upcoming workshop.