BRADENTON -- Spend any amount of time outside the new Manatee Performing Arts Center and you're bound to hear someone say it: "I don't see how they're going to open on time."
The Manatee Players are slated to open their first show in their new home in eight days.
But from the street, it looks like an impossible dream to have the building open on March 28. The second floor is nowhere near finished -- the walls are half-built, you can see rebar and scaffolding from the street, and the property is covered with dirt and piles of gravel.
So around town, people are wondering whether "Miss Saigon" can really open on time. Manatee Players officials have a simple answer.
"Yes," says Denny Miller, the company's marketing manager. "I can only go on the assumption that it will be open March 28. There is no Plan B."
Things look better on the inside than the outside, and the cast and crew of "Miss Saigon" are going to rehearse in the new theater tonight. There's still a lot of work to be done inside -- one observer called it "a mess" -- but Miller said it's getting done and will be done on time.
"They're working furious
ly," he said. "All I can think of is that TV show 'Extreme Home Makeover.' "
As for the second floor that's still visibly incomplete, that doesn't really matter. That's going to house the Kiwanis Club, and it doesn't have to be completed for the Players to open their show.
"That's a whole different CO," said Tim Polk, the director of planning and community development for the City of Bradenton, referring to the required certificate of occupancy.
The city's doing all it can to help the process along, Polk said. City regulations prohibit Sunday construction, but this project received special permission to build seven days a week.
"We did that three or four weeks ago," Polk said Tuesday.
City inspectors have been tracking the progress of the construction as it goes along, Polk said, so the Players can get their CO as soon as work is done.
"We're working with them to make sure they can open that first show on time," Polk said.
Manatee Player's officials don't seem to be worried at all, but they've heard people express doubts.
"I think they're looking at the outside and they see that the driveway isn't finished," said executive director Janene Witham.
Things will look a lot better within a week, she said. The driveway is scheduled to be poured on Monday, and trees should be delivered the day after.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Manatee Players' historic home, the Riverfront Theatre on Old Main Street, is still up in the air. The city owns the property, and Polk said the city council will hold public hearings to determine what to do with the building and the property.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.