BRADENTON -- The curtain has been hung, tickets are selling out and Bradenton residents are pulling out their tuxedos and gowns, all in anticipation of the grand opening Thursday of the 364-seat Manatee Performing Arts Center.
Nearby businesses are eagerly waiting to serve all the theatergoers expected to head downtown for opening night.
Business owners say they expect added revenue to follow Thursday's the Manatee Players' inaugural performance of "Miss Saigon" at the bigger and better theater.
"Everything in downtown is just booming right now," said Cork Miller, owner of Cork's Cigar Bar. "We've been slowly growing for the last five years."
Miller, in business downtown for five and half years, welcomes the new addition.
"Anything that is positive is good for Old Main Street," Miller said. "It's all good."
Miller, who sits on the Downtown Development Authority Board, credits the DDA, mayor and the city council, among others, with working with lo
cal buisness owners to make positive changes to downtown Bradenton.
Across the street, Fav's Italian Cucina expects an increase in business thanks to the Manatee Players, who always draw a crowd to the restaurant.
"It will drive a new crowd, a bigger crowd," said Maria Favasuli Wagner, owner of Fav's.
Wagner said the bigger venue and better parking situation well help drive more traffic downtown on performance nights.
"I think people are going to want to see it, maybe even those that wouldn't normally go to the theater since it's new," Wagner said.
Some business owners say they have already started to feel the effects of the changes in downtown and are looking forward to more.
"I think it's just of a piece of the puzzle," O'Bricks Irish Pub and Martini Bar General Manager Rick Willis said. "It's all going to work together."
Willis said business is up 35 percent at O'Bricks from last year.
"Anything you put in the downtown is going to help it boom," Willis said.
In addition to business growth, additions like the new Manatee Players theater make Bradenton one of the best places to live.
"In another year or so it's going to be an amazing place to live," Willis said. "I think it's going to be spectacular."
The Manatee Players organization shares the excitement with business neighbors.
"Our hope here is to get more people to downtown, not just to the Manatee Players, because we believe if we help our community partners they will help us," Executive Director Janene Witham said.
The new theater is increasing demand by business owners who want to relocate to downtown Bradenton to be part of the action, according to the Downtown Development Authority Director David Gustafson.
"I got businesses that want to be at the Manatee Players and on the Riverwalk," Gustafson said. "They are banging on our doors."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.