PALMETTO -- The new Feld Entertainment headquarters in Ellenton will create 125 permanent jobs within the next year and 225 within the next two years. In the next two decades, it will have an economic impact for Manatee County totaling about $3.5 billion.
Those were among the facts and figures Feld Entertainment CEO Mark Feld outlined Friday during his hour-long keynote address for the first day of the Florida Neighborhoods Conference at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice and other entertainment entities, is in the midst of consolidating all its operations into a massive complex in Ellenton.
"For the first time in history, the entire Feld Entertainment family will be under one roof," Feld told the audience of about 200.
The building, which was built by Siemens and most recently used by GE to manufacture wind turbines, will house Feld Entertainment's offices and rehearsal facilities for the circus, ice shows, a motocross and other Feld shows.
It's so large, Feld said, that major concert acts - he named the Eagles, George Strait and Lady Antebellum - will be able to build sets and rehearse there before heading out on tour. One of the largest ice shows in history is rehearsing there already, he said, and he expects major motion picture productions to use the facility to build sets and film on soundstages.
And the largest Feld show in history, "Marvel Universe Live," will launch from the
Ellenton facility and premiere in Tampa on July 11, 2014.
"If you have a rock 'n' roll show, a stage show or even a movie," Feld said, "it can be launched right here in Manatee County."
The transition to Ellenton from other Feld locations, mostly in Tampa and Virginia, is underway, and should be complete within the next few months, another company official said later.
A handful of protestors from People for the Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) stood on the sidewalk on U.S. 41, near the convention center, with signs that alleged that Ringling Brothers abuse animals.
Feld didn't mention the protestors or PETA, but talked about the issues.
Feld Entertainment is devoted to animal welfare, he said.
But some groups "misuse the court system" and are concerned with animal rights instead of animal welfare.
"We don't believe animals have rights," he said.
Feld's new presence in Manatee County has already meant 13 months of work for construction workers and will bring new permanent residents and visitors to the area, he said. Growth of the facility will mean jobs, real estate sales and thousands of visitors.
And because Manatee School for the Arts is nearby, it would be natural for Feld to start an internship program for students, as it had with an arts school near its Virginia headquarters.
"We're here and we're going to be here for a long time," he said. "We'll be good neighbors. I promise."
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.