Kiwanis proposes $1.1M gift toward Manatee Players' new venue in Bradenton

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJune 20, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Two of The Friendly City's most venerated organizations want to join forces to create a multi-use venue that could be a huge boon for downtown Bradenton.

The Kiwanis Club of Bradenton voted Tuesday to submit a letter of intent to the Manatee Players' board of directors outlining a completion plan for the Manatee Performing Art Center's second floor.

The service club intends to sell its home since 1953, Kiwanis Hall, 1401 21st Ave. W., Bradenton, and donate the proceeds, as much as $1.1 million, to the community theater troupe.

The donation would finance the upper level of the center being built near the Bradenton Riverwalk. The second floor would include classroom space, a sewing room, costume storage, rehearsal space, a catering kitchen and a meeting or conference room tentatively named "The Kiwanis Club of Bradenton Meeting Wing."

"Our club has always been known as the downtown club and we feel this gives us an opportunity to be intimately involved with the exciting things happening in downtown Bradenton and take a leadership position as we have done through the history of our club in the completion of big ideas," said John Vita, a member of the Kiwanis Club's board of directors.

Vita declined to disclose the sale price or potential buyers.

Among the contingencies of the proposal on the new home of the Manatee Players, which the community theater troupe hopes to have ready for a production of "Miss Saigon" next March, would be approval by the city of Bradenton.

Endorsements from the Bradenton Riverfront Partners and the community's financial commitment are also required.

"This will allow us to focus not just on booking the main stage performances but also performances, recitals and business meetings throughout the rest of the facility that is open to the community," said Janene Witham, executive director of the Manatee Players.

About three months ago, the Kiwanis Club presented the Manatee Players with a check for $250,000.

Monday, the county Tourist Development Council voted to recommend a $250,000 matching grant for the center financed with an overage accrued from bed taxes during a successful winter tourist season.

The Manatee County Commission must still approve its recommendation.

The goal of the Manatee Players Capital Campaign is about $15 million, but the facility could operate at $12 million. With the $250,000 grant and a match, the theater troupe would be about $600,000 or $700,000 short of being operational.

The Manatee Performing Arts Center will seat 380 in its main room, Cora May Stone Hall. Approximately 240 people fit inside the Bradenton company's Riverfront Theatre on Old Main Street.

-- Herald Staff Writer Sara Kennedy contributed to this report.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter @wtatangelo.

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