Feld Entertainment's move to Palmetto nearly complete

'Marvel Universe Live,' its biggest show ever, is now in preparation at Palmetto complex

mclear@bradenton.comApril 21, 2014 

PALMETTO -- The Greatest Show on Earth is coming to Palmetto. Spider-Man and Captain America are already there.

Feld Entertainment has virtually completed its move into its massive new home in Palmetto. All but a few dozen company employees now call Manatee County home, and all company shows will be built and rehearsed in the building, which means most will premiere in Central Florida.

That includes the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and "Marvel Universe Live," a new multimedia extravaganza being readied for the road.

"It's the largest undertaking in the company's history," said Steve Payne, Feld vice president of corporate communications. "It's really the first time all the Marvel characters will be in one show."

Most of the building is closed to the media and the general public, partly so people don't learn too much about "Marvel Universe Live" before it makes its public debut July 10 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The show will feature the most popular Marvel comics characters -- the Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man -- in an arena spectacular with flying, motorcycle stunts and lots of video.

The new Feld headquarters sits on 46 acres on U.S. 301. The 600,000-square-foot building was built in the early 1980s for Siemens, an international engineering and electronics conglomerate. Siemens stayed for about a year. Feld bought the property in 2012 and began moving in last year.

Now about 350 Feld employees from its Virginia and North Carolina locations have relocated here. More are coming, though Feld will keep small offices in Virginia, where staff members who deal with government issues will remain based, and Illinois, home of Feld's Monster Jam truck show.

The square footage under roof in Manatee County consists of about 100,000 square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of shops space and 100,000 square feet of rehearsal space, Payne said.

It's going to grow, he said, and construction and renovation projects will be almost constant in the years ahead

Planned additions include an animal housing area northwest of the building to provide temporary quarters for circus animals.

Feld officials said they hope outside groups will use the facility eventually.

"If you're building a rock 'n' roll show you can build it, rehearse it and launch it from here," Payne said. "And not just live shows, but films."

A commercial for the movie sequel "300: Rise of an Empire" was filmed at the Palmetto facility, he said.

Besides full-time employment at the new facility, Feld officials say the influx of performers, designers, technicians and others will all have a significant economic impact on the area.

Payne said Feld has estimated the impact at $3 billion over the next 20 years.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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