DaVinci organizers want to make Bradenton auditorium permanent home

myoung@bradenton.comJuly 11, 2014 

Guests walk through the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition at the Bradenton Auditorium. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- The organizers of the DaVinci Machines Exhibition at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium believe they can repeat the long-running success of their efforts on a full-time basis by regularly bringing in other exhibits, shows and headline acts.

To do that, organizers want to permanently take over the auditorium's lease from the city.

Mark Rodgers, curator of the DaVinci exhibit, sent an email to Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston proposing his idea while citing the success of the exhibit and the recent booking of the No. 1 Las Vegas show "Phat Pack," which will premier at the audito

rium the first weekend of August.

"We've been so successful here that we wanted to make a proposal to routinely bring in touring acts and events," Rodgers told the Bradenton Herald.

As part of their proposal, Rodgers said his group would incur all necessary costs to upgrade and maintain the auditorium, pledging no expense to the city.

"It's a beautiful hall and would be an incredible opportunity for downtown Bradenton," said Rodgers.

The auditorium is rented for other functions by the city, and Rodgers acknowledged that would no longer be an option if his group takes over the facility.

"We would need to be fast on our feet, and sometimes that means taking advantage of an act that is traveling from Miami to Orlando and bringing them in for a one-night show," he said. "We have a ton of connections in this business, including many in Las Vegas."

Rodgers said in the year the exhibit has been running, which includes two extensions, "We have gotten to know our audience here in Bradenton."

The email was received by Poston last month and passed onto staff, but not yet to the city council. Rodgers said the city has not responded to his email, but Poston said Thursday that there is still time to consider a proposal he calls "interesting."

There are obligations regarding a health fair after the DaVinci exhibition closes, and Poston said that's a first priority.

"The council has not discussed this idea yet because we still have all of August," Poston said. "After that, we'll talk to the DaVinci folks. Right now, we don't know what will come out of those talks, but it is worth talking about."

There are other facilities in and near Manatee County that host large events. The Manatee Performing Arts Center and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota are both capable of hosting headline acts, but Rodgers said those facilities typically book long-running shows. Rodgers said his group is more interested in flexibility.

"Our whole goal of this proposal is to keep our performances fresh and to be able to pick up last-minute opportunities," he said. "We want to keep the entertainment fresh and flowing through downtown Bradenton, and to use the auditorium in the most creative way possible."

As part of the proposal, Rodgers is proposing to rename the auditorium to something like the "Bradenton Riverwalk Center" and make the auditorium the official home of the Bradenton Film Festival.

Rodgers said he does not believe his proposal would conflict or compete with the other performing arts centers because he has a different vision for the auditorium.

"This would be an incredible opportunity to add to the growing reputation of Bradenton's downtown arts culture," he said.

Rodgers said he would be putting together an official proposal to bring to the city council once the DaVinci and Phat Pack obligations have been completed.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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