NOTICE | Is the Lakewood Ranch Performing Arts Center just a dream? | Eastern County

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch always dreamed big when planning Lakewood Ranch.

Big homes, big entertainment centers, big parks, big trails.

So I hope Manatee County officials are thinking big when planning everything that coincides with Lakewood Ranch.

A group of musicians from Lakewood Ranch hope the same.

Calling themselves Friends of Lakewood Ranch Performing Arts Center, their mission is to use a grassroots effort to build support for a performing arts center in the Lakewood Ranch area.

Look around you. It’s an artistic wasteland when it comes to theaters.

Now, we’ve gone that route in the not-so-distant past, when I wrote in March that SMR had ended its deal with the Players Center for Performing Arts to build a $30 million theater at Waterside Place. SMR obviously wasn’t convinced that The Players could deliver in a timely manner and so decided to go ahead regardless of their huge desire to deliver an arts complex to their community.

While that’s the case, I noted at the time that Lakewood Ranch, the best-selling multi-generational, planned community in the United States, was doing pretty well, thank you, with a rather naïve existence. Sarasota is brimming with artistic opportunities and is just a short drive away.

In the realm of big ideas, however, the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Performing Arts Center, led by Joe Martinez, want more and have decided to make it heard.

He has the perfect guy to sound the bugle – or the trumpet.

Martinez owns JM Productions, a booking and talent agency that hires musicians for local and national events. He is principal trumpet of the Sarasota Concert Band and the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble. His list of other musical affiliations goes on and on. Suffice to say that he is very respected in the region.

So people tend to listen when Martinez says it’s just plain silly not to have a performing arts center in such an affluent community, which has generated rapid growth that has meant a fortune for Manatee County. . It was Manatee County that held reserves of about half a billion dollars.

I understand. Much of this reserve money is now going to infrastructure that will make our lives easier when it comes to driving in the region. That being said, wouldn’t it be nice if Manatee County led an effort to bring a performing arts center to Premier Park?

So far, Manatee County is on track to deliver a $17.3 million library. A $13.59 million aquatics facility is about to start, and it looks like it will cost an additional $770,000 to upgrade the pool to longer lap lanes, a good idea for having a complex that can accommodate people. major events.

Manatee County has a budget of $28.45 million in its five-year capital improvement plan for Premier Park athletic facilities.

No one will dispute the tragic and comical nature of the Manatee County Commission’s proceedings, and yet, if you criticize this obvious lack of professionalism, you must also step back and commend the commissioners for bringing much-needed amenities to East County. . These projects usually receive overwhelming support from the commissioners.

There has also been talk of some sort of amphitheater or stage at Premier, and possibly a gymnasium that would be large enough to host major indoor events during the slow tourist summer. Keep thinking big.

So why not a performing arts center?

Martinez would like to strike as the commissioners are in the mood to improve facilities in East County.

“Our group tries to give Lakewood Ranch residents a chance to express their feelings,” Martinez said. “We have an exciting concept, but we still need to present it to decision-makers.”

Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Performing Arts Center have already drawn up plans, such as a 77,650 square foot building with two theaters (one seating 750 people and the other 300). The building would house three separate rehearsal rooms, storage areas, administrative offices, additional offices for rent, choir rooms, locker rooms, kitchen, dining and lounge areas, and a loading dock.

You be the judge if the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Performing Arts Center has gone from dreaming big to an absolute fantasy. Martinez puts a $75 million price tag on the project.


Breathe and keep dreaming.

I don’t know if $75 million is a little over the top, but I do know that when the people of Manatee County start asking for things in earnest, they have commissioners in place trying to deliver. And unless this particular concept is discussed in an open forum, we won’t know what’s possible.

Myself, this $30 million theater planned by The Players was adorable. Maybe The Players was trying to carry too much load on its own. Imagine if the players had set their sights on Premier and had the backing and financial backing of Manatee County. I imagine it would have required other artistic groups to be included in the mission as well, but the result could have been special.

The players’ ship has probably sailed, but what about a similar concept to Premier Park, with Manatee County (read this as ‘We the Taxpayers’) providing support with land, funding , planning and maintenance? Could a public-private partnership mean a forever home for a band like The Players and other nonprofit arts groups? Could these groups make meaningful contributions to construction? Could a master like Elliott Falcione, the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention Center, find ways to generate revenue with such a performing arts center?

Could we build a larger theater – 1,500 seats or more – that would allow the building to host, on occasion, professional musicians and acts that could turn the center into a regional attraction?

Martinez doesn’t have all the answers, but he wants to start the discussion. He sees a Lakewood Ranch Orchestra in the near future. He sees concerts and plays. He sees an oasis in the artistic wilderness of Lakewood Ranch.

Would you like to join his effort? You can reach him at [email protected]. Her group is already planning a “Rising Tide Gala” to raise money for the effort as well as a silent auction.

It’s time to dream.

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