The town will pursue building a 50-foot downstage at the Town Center site between the Public Tennis Center and the Shoppes of Bay Isles.
The Longboat Key Town Commission on Monday approved plans to build a 50-foot wide permanent stage at the Town Center site along with plans on how to privately finance it.
The Longboat Key Foundation will coordinate fundraising efforts, which included a potential naming rights deal, said former Mayor Jim Brown, the foundation's president.
“He brings, obviously, that experience as being a mayor, a commissioner, but also a private architect, so he understands all those components, and he’s been part of the foundation for some time, so he’s worked through the fundraising initiatives,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said of working with Brown.
Brown said the Longboat Key Foundation planned to meet to discuss who to approach as potential donors and how. He said he believed naming rights of the stage would require a donation that covers at least 50% of the cost.
“That’s one of the things that we will talk about . . . is how to approach them, and I have some people in mind already that could afford that if they wanted to,” Brown said.
Harmer said the town would schedule regular meetings with Brown and other members of the Longboat Key Foundation along the way.
“It’ll be close collaboration as this moves forward,” Harmer said.
Commissioners considered three stage designs, all placed on the north end of the property nearest the Public Tennis Center:
- A 60-foot downstage opening by 37-foot depth for an approximate construction cost of $400,000.
- A 50-foot downstage opening by 32-foot depth for an approximate construction cost between $320,000 and $400,000.
- A 40-foot downstage opening by 25-foot depth with an approximate construction cost of $320,000.
“I thought the 60-foot was overwhelming for the space. It just seemed too big, and frankly the 40-foot (seemed) too small,” Vice Mayor Mike Haycock said.
District 5 Commissioner Maureen Merrigan was the only commissioner who preferred the 40-foot stage, which is the smallest of the three proposals.
“I felt like the big stage was too big for that area, so I sort of agree with Mike on that, but again that’s just one person’s take,” Merrigan said.
Although Brown did not have vote on which stage size to select, he said he preferred the 40-foot stage.
“This is a small community,” Brown said. “We’re not going to try to bring everybody in from the city to come out here for big presentations, and we did have big presentations, that’s what would happen.”
The town had marked off with stakes the sizes of the options for commissioners to see in three-dimensions.
Commissioners BJ Bishop, Sherry Dominick and Penny Gold initially preferred building the 60-foot stage.
“I went out to the site, and I think the 60-foot looks like it would be actually a better fit for that site, especially if it was centered in that space,” Gold said. “And, besides the aesthetics, which Sherry mentioned, which I do think are better, I think it gives us more flexibility if we wanted to bring in an orchestra.”
Gold said the 40-foot option would have been too confined for performers.
Gary Hoyt of the Sarasota-based firm Hoyt Architects attended Monday afternoon’s Town Commission meeting. The firm is about 30% finished with the design of the Town Center stage concept.
The town has about $911,000 remaining in its Town Center fund to apply to phase two work, which does not include plans for a permanent stage. Construction on lighting, pathways and other improvements is expected to start in October or November. Though some events are already scheduled, town leaders emphasized that event organizers will have to be flexible to work around potential construction.
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