BRADENTON -- For many Manatee County residents, the Da Vinci exhibit coming to town, which will be displayed at the Bradenton Auditorium for six months starting Nov. 15, is a good thing and a much needed boost to the local economy.
However, the Manatee River Orchid Society, whose annual show set for Jan. 24-26, 2014, was displaced to make way for the DaVinci exhibit, is upset with the way they say the city of Bradenton handled the conflict.
"It's thrown us for a loop," said Dave Junka, president of the Manatee River Orchid Society.
He said their event has to be planned a year ahead.
Never miss a local story.
"We've had all our post cards and letterhead printed and sent out," said Junka.
He said because of the Da Vinci exhibit, his group has lost $600 in printing materials to advertise their event.
"The city of Bradenton has completely let us down," said Junka.
The orchid society said they received a call on Aug. 21 from the city stating that they could not have their event at the auditorium.
Junka said that the city should have advertised to inform the people who booked the auditorium that it will only host the Da Vinci exhibit during its time here.
"They had to know this was going on. There is no way this just popped up. This is a national exhibit," said Junka.
Although Junka said the city has been of no help to them, Dave Gustafson, director for the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, said that Bradenton employ
ees have given displaced event planners other local venue options, includng the Bradenton Area Convention Center, the new Manatee Players theater and Renaissance on 9th.
"As soon as the contract was sign, immediately after, Bradenton Auditorium reps started making phone calls," said Gustafson.
He said he is sorry that some people are upset with the decision the city made, but ultimately the deal came down to what was best for Bradenton and its residents.
"When we are not making money in the auditorium, it costs the citizens to keep it open," Gustafson said.
He said the auditorium loses over $100,000 a year, but now they have a guaranteed event for six months. The DaVinci Machines Exhibition will bring about 75 inventions by Leonardo da Vinci created by Italian artisans from sketches in Da Vinci's notebooks.
Gustafson said that the city has worked closely with the convention center to help event planners use their site as an alternative. Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that they are happy to help and are working with organizers to give them a comparable deal.
"We will work to accommodate all or most," said Falcione. "As of today we've accommodated 10 clients, and we believe that all clients are happy."
Junka, the orchid society president, said his group is negotiating a contract with the convention center and that they've been very helpful during the process.
Sean Walter, the convention center general manager, said that he has not encountered any disgruntled event planners who had to use the convention center for a venue because of the Da Vinci exhibit.
"The nice thing is the people we've been getting. they are open minded to change," said Walter. "Since we knew about the event, we were willing to work with the community."
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter @Janey_Tate.