Bring Ringling Bros. circus to Bradenton area: commentary

December 16, 2012 

Put the ringmaster and the rest of the stars up at the new and improved "Pink Palace."

Parade the elephants down Old Main Street.

Then, premiere the latest edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

Sounds fun, right?

Perhaps you read last Sunday's front-page story about circus-owner Feld Entertainment's exciting plans.

The company's spokesman told me that Feld's "long-term goal is to move Winter Quarters to Ellenton" (http://tinyurl.com/bebw5mu).

That will be huge for Manatee County.

Sarasota became synonymous with Ringling Bros. because its Winter Quarters were there from 1927 to 1959. Since the early 1990s, the circus has set up Winter Quarters in Tampa at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

That's where Ringling Bros. is rehearsing its 143rd edition for a world premiere Jan. 2-6 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

It's easy to imagine, in the near future, a Ringling Bros. world premiere at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. The venue is a mere two miles from Feld's 47-acre campus in Ellenton along U.S. 301.

That's the giant building that can be seen from various spots along the eastern stretch of the Bradenton Riverwalk. Feld Entertainment plans to invest more than $20 million in the facility, which most recently stood as a wind turbine factory for General Electric.

As early as next winter, it could be the new home of Ringling Bros.

I also hope that means clowns and other circus performers will start having beers with us at McCabe's Irish Pub. Bet they have some great stories to share, right? But I'm getting off track.

For the past two decades, Feld Entertainment has maintained a mighty campus in Palmetto where the costumes, sets, lighting and sound for the company's tours and productions are created. Yes, lots of

circus stuff is made there.

Feld expects its expansion from Palmetto into the new Ellenton complex to be complete within months.

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," the Feld spokesman told me. "We're hoping to have it up and running on a much larger scale by next summer."

I pressed him about having a Ringling Bros. world premiere at a Bradenton area venue, but he wouldn't give me an answer.

The Feld spokesman sounded positive about the possibility, though.

And that, along with the 235 jobs promised over the next five years, has me stoked about The Greatest Show on Earth coming to Manatee County.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.

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