Manatee County Commission authorizes $250,000 grant for new Manatee Players theater in Bradenton

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 26, 2012 

BRADENTON -- The Manatee County Commission formally authorized a $250,000 contribution Tuesday for the new Manatee Performing Arts Center in downtown Bradenton along the redesigned Riverwalk.

The money will be matched with funds that the Manatee Players' organization has already raised from ticket buyers, said Janene Witham, executive director of the Manatee Players.

The community theater troupe still needs to raise $940,000 in order to open in March with a production of "Miss Saigon," she said.

County commissioners unanimously OK'd an amendment to the Tourist Development Plan to authorize use of tourist tax dollars for the

one-time contribution.

The performing arts center is still under construction at 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

"Urban core redevelopment is vital to our future for visitation," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"You have people staying seven nights -- they need amenities when they get sunburned on the beach, or have a rainy day," he said.

Falcione predicted the new theater, which sits adjacent to Bradenton's enhanced Riverwalk and overlooks the Manatee River, will help private sector development achieve a "domino effect."

Commissioner Robin DiSabatino called it a "great private-public partnership."

The Players have been raising money with various private and public partners for more than eight years, and so far, have raised $11 million, Witham said after the meeting at the County Administrative Center.

The theater troupe broke ground seven years ago on its new building, and its construction has always been done on a cash basis, she said.

"We're just so thankful for those who have really stepped up--this has been a mighty project that has been supported by many," Witham said. "This really is a community-supported project."

She added with a laugh: "There's still time for those who have not yet sent in their donations."

The Manatee Players can be contacted at 941-748-5875 or www.manateeplayers.com.

The Kiwanis Club of Bradenton voted last summer to submit a letter of intent to the Players' board of directors, outlining a completion plan for the 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.

-- Herald reporter Wade Tatangelo contributed to this story.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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