- November 28, 2021
Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier says he doesn’t know why exactly he thought to speak with Paul and Sarah Karon about the naming rights of the Town Center stage.
“When this first came up as an opportunity, I thought of them,” Schneier said. “And, I can’t tell you exactly why it came to my mind to speak with them, but I talked to Paul and Sarah, and then they met with…Jim Brown and the (Longboat Key) Foundation, Tom (Harmer) and myself,” Schneier said. “(We) just hit it off. (We are) very, very fortunate.”
During Monday’s Town Commission meeting, Town Manager Tom Harmer announced the Karons would donate up to $500,000 to fund and design the construction of the Town Center stage in exchange for its naming rights.
“We’ll bring to the commission a naming rights agreement as part of the donation,” Harmer said. “Then, we would look at naming the stage based on the donor, so we would work with the donor on a proposed name.”
Harmer said the Town Commission is set to consider a naming rights draft agreement during its Dec. 6 meeting.
“The commission reserves the right to name town property, and this is an opportunity, because of the significance of the donation, for them to have a naming-rights (agreement) associated with their donation,” Harmer said.
Harmer said the Town Commission would only need to vote on the measure once because it’s an agreement and not an ordinance.
Schneier considers the Karons “close personal friends.” He said he’s known them for the past four to five years.
“I know that they are very philanthropically inclined, and it just seemed like a good opportunity for them,” Schneier said.
Harmer said it was Schneier who introduced the couple to him and Brown, who serves as the Longboat Key Foundation’s president and is the former mayor of the town. The group met multiple times.
“That was the first meeting, where it was a little bit about the history and the background in the naming rights opportunity, and then the mayor and I had a follow-up meeting with them,” Harmer said. “And then, I worked with them after that to formalize the understanding of next steps, and what that donation might look like from the town’s perspective and the naming rights perspective.”
Schneier mentioned during last month’s Longboat Key Town Commission retreat that he had spoken with a family interested in the Town Center stage naming rights. He did not specify who specifically he had spoken with during the Oct. 18 retreat.
The Longboat Key Foundation helped coordinate private fundraising for the 50-foot wide permanent stage between the Public Tennis Center and the Shoppes of Bay Isles. During the summer, Longboat Key leaders decided to allocate $50,000 of town funding to complete design and constructions plans for a stage at the Town Center site.
“It’s an enormous step forward,” Schneier said. “I realize that the Town Center vision that started some almost 20 years ago, and it’s really beyond belief that we’re ever going to get this done with really good people and for the whole cost. It’s tremendous.”
Harmer said construction is due to start this fiscal year, and that the contractor would work around upcoming events at the site. He also echoed Schneier’s sentiment, calling the Karon’s donation “huge.”
“Next year, when we’re talking about the 2023 season and events there, we’ll have a brand new stage in place, and that really will add to the type of events that we can have, it’ll raise the bar on the activity on the property and so the timing is great because we’re in this other process that it can run parallel with,” Harmer said.