BRADENTON -- Steve Forristall has never been in a play, but history will show he took part in the final act at the old Manatee Players theater.
Forristall, of Forristall Enterprises Inc. of Palmetto, on Tuesday morning began supervising demolition of the theater.
He watched a front loader as it carefully began tearing out the front of the building.
"Sorry, I'm not the sentimental type," Forristall said with a grin when asked if he felt any spirits as he made the final walk through the building early Tuesday to make sure there were no people inside. "We didn't find anything unusual inside. They did a good job clearing it out."
Although demolition started Tuesday, it will take a few weeks to completely clear the property at 102 Old Main St., across from city hall, Forristall said.
"Separating the concrete from the trash and hauling everything away is what is takes the longest," Forristall said.
Lifetime Bradenton resident and former Bradenton city councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, who passed by as the demolition was occurring, called the final act, "sad but progress."
"I remember back in 1968 being on the stage in a production of 'Once Upon a Mattress' as a dancer from Mrs. Alexander's Ballet School," Barnebey said as she watched the front loader. "It's progress, We now have a beautiful new performing arts center which many people thought would never happen in Bradenton. Now it's time for us to say goodbye to the catalyst from which the new performing arts center came."
Forristall Enterprises was awarded the $23,500 demolition contract several weeks ago.
The city had been debating the future of the old building since last summer and while the fate of the property has yet to be determined, the fate of the building was sealed unanimously. The 1950s-era building had fallen into disrepair since the Manatee Players relocated to their new facility at 502 Third Ave. W. in March of 2014. The 2/3 of an acre was last appraised for $822,000.
Most of the city council has expressed interest in seeing the property combined with the city hall property and sold for private redevelopment. Others have argued for more downtown green space or possibly a park.
City officials say the only thing that will happen upon demolition for now is that the land will be graded and sodded to be "development ready."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond