BRADENTON -- Kiwanis President David Bishop rang the bell Tuesday to end the service group's weekly meeting, but he was also ending an era in the Kiwanis' beloved meeting place for the past 50-plus years.
The Kiwanis Club of Bradenton is moving from Kiwanis Hall on 14th Street West to a new home inside the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
The move symbolizes a new beginning for the Kiwanis Club, which this year celebrates 91 years of community service, Bishop told the luncheon crowd.
"This building has served us well," he said. "We will always have a strong connec
tion to this hall. Our mission has not changed."
Janene Witham, Manatee Players executive director, said the move represents a new partnership between the Manatee Players and the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton that is creating a community activity center.
"We created a long-term partnership that provides them permanent space," said Witham.
The new Kiwanis wing includes a ballroom that seats 300 people and a kitchen. The space will also be used for performing arts activities such as dance auditions.
The Bradenton Kiwanis Club is a major donor to the Manatee Players, said Witham.
"We believe having the Kiwanis will help us build a better reach into other entities in the community," she added. "We're very excited."
After Tuesday's meeting, Witham and members helped pack up chairs and tables from Kiwanis Hall to take to the performing arts center at 502 Third Ave. W. where they will hold their first meeting Aug. 6 in the Kiwanis Wing.
Brenda Rogers, former Kiwanis president, called the move an investment in the future and the community.
"We have more opportunities to grow our membership, and I'm looking forward to the new chapter that's going to begin for our club," said Rogers.
The club is selling the property as part of the investment into the new facility.
Bradenton City Councilman Gene Brown, a former Kiwanis member, said the partnership will bring more people downtown and help the city grow.
"Moving down there is going to boost the membership, I believe," said Brown. "You need excitement, you need change sometimes, and this is going to make it exciting for the Kiwanis Club, for the city and for the whole community."
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.