MANATEE -- A major boon appears on the horizon for the bustling Bradenton area.
One that could not only result in more high-paying jobs, but also some nice name recognition.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus became synonymous with Sarasota when its Winter Quarters were there from 1927 to 1959.
Now "The Greatest Show on Earth" might be just as closely associated with Manatee County.
Feld Entertainment, which acquired Ringling Bros. in 1967, plans to eventually move Winter Quarters to Ellenton from the Florida State Fairgrounds, where the circus is currently rehearsing its 143rd edition for a world premiere Jan. 2-6 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The new Ellenton facility will house 100,000 square feet of office space and 450,000 square feet of manufacturing in two buildings along U.S. 301.
"We're not at a place yet where we can tell when we will have the capability to rehearse all the circuses at this facility," Feld spokesman Stephen Payne told the Bradenton Herald.
"But the long-term goal is to move Winter Quarters to Ellenton."
Feld Entertainment, which also produces several other shows including Disney on Ice and Monster Jam, expects the expansion from its home of many years in Palmetto into a new 47-acre campus in Ellenton to be complete in 2013. The live show producer also plans to incrementally relocate its global headquarters from Vienna, Va., to Manatee over the next five years.
"After the first of the year, we are going to start migrating from Palmetto," Payne said. "We're hoping to have it up and running on a much larger scale by next summer."
Feld also plans to make the new facility available to outside touring companies.
"It's a world-class facility," Payne said. "If you had a rock 'n' roll tour and needed a place to rehearse, you could rehearse shows there."
Feld Entertainment is receiving nearly $3.3 million in government incentives, divided fairly evenly between the county and state.
The company will preserve its 148 existing employees and is projected to add 235 new high-skill, high-wage jobs over the next five years, according to the Manatee Economic Development Corp. Feld is scheduled to submit its first annual report to the EDC next month.
"We are already moving certain people down to Florida from Virginia," Payne said. "After the move is completed, we will continue to add jobs locally from Manatee and surrounding counties.
"We want to become part of the community and one of the large employers in the county."
For the past two decades, Feld Entertainment has maintained the campus in Palmetto, occupying four acres on the industrial end of 17th Street East. It's where the costumes, sets, lighting and sound for the company's tours and productions are created.
The new facility will house many of the same functions, as well as the company's circus train maintenance -- and, eventually, Winter Quarters.
"I think the fact that they're doing that shows how invested they want to be in Manatee County," said Sharon Hillstrom, Manatee EDC President and CEO.
"This is a global corporation attracting a lot of people here; this is another great win for Manatee County."
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.