MANATEE -- Once dubbed by naysayers as a sure-fire money loser, Manatee County's Powel Crosley Estate has become a profitable high-end wedding destination, officials said Tuesday.
Revenues at the historic estate increased 29 percent between 2009 and June, said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The venue averages 127 events a year, including two or so six-figure weddings, said Falcione during a county commission meeting Tuesday.
In 1991, Manatee County purchased the gracious circa-1929 mansion for $1.65 million to save it from commercial development, county officials said.
Formerly owned by industrialist Powel Crosley Jr., the county converted it to a meeting, conference and event venue.
Perched on lush land at 8374 N. Tamiami Trail, it faces Sarasota Bay, boasting 21 rooms and 10 baths plus an adjacent carriage house. Since 1982, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Saturday is the peak day
for weddings, according to Eva Galler, senior financial analyst for the CVB, which operates the Crosley and its sister facility, the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
To rent the house on a Saturday costs $4,500 and house and grounds together cost $4,900, she said.
On Wednesdays, the house costs $2,500, while house and grounds together cost $2,900.
Some brides find it easy to spend six figures on a wedding, said Philip Mancini, coproprietor of Michael's on East in Sarasota, who has catered many weddings at the Crosley.
A tent alone for 200-plus guests can cost $20,000. The average cost of food is between $50-$75 per person, and drinks and champagne can cost another $50 per person. Bands can cost $10,000 and above, not to mention airplane flights in and boat departures, said Mancini.
"You could spend $30 a person just on table linens, beautiful linens," said Mancini. "There's no question the Crosley is one of the premier destination places for weddings -- they're always booked."
Brides like the Crosley's elegant entrance; an open 12,000-square-foot area on the water with room for a tent that can cover up to 400 people if necessary, and a patio for dancing, said Mancini.
The Crosley is self-sustaining and its profits help offset expenses at the convention center, said Falcione.
"It's a perfect marriage. The proceeds from the Crosley are helping fund the convention center," he told commissioners.
The convention center differs from the Crosley Estate in that it was built and operated by a governmental body for a specific purpose.
"Governments do not build them to make money," he told the board. "They build them to drive new money into their communities."
When county officials bought the Crosley Estate, some thought it would be a losing proposition, recalled Commissioner Betsy Benac, who previously worked as a county planner before she was elected to the commission.
"From looking at these financials, that does not appear to be the case," she said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.