Manatee Players oh so close to closing deal on theater

The finish line is oh so tantalizingly close. After eight years of active public fund-raising and six years of incremental construction, the Manatee Players stands only $900,000 short of opening the downtown Bradenton riverfront theater.

Hopes are high that the troupe will take the stage for a big production of "Miss Saigon" this coming March, the targeted debut for the Manatee Performing Arts Center.

This is a cash-driven project that only advances construction when money is in the bank and contractors can be paid.

Last week the Manatee County Commission gave final authorization for a $250,000 contribution to the project. Then this week, the Bradenton City Council agreed to put up $800,000 toward the building as an advance on the $1.1 million pledge from the Kiwanis Foundation and The Kiwanis Club of Bradenton. The foundation will carry a $500,000 loan from the city, and the club will give the Manatee Players $300,000 from the upcoming sale of the organization's 14th Street headquarters.

The county contribution comes out of tourism taxes, and the city will use cash reserves for the loans, still to be finalized.

Kudos to Manatee County, the City of Bradenton and Kiwanis for propelling this project forward. Once realized, the theater will be another major step in the revitalization of downtown and further positions Bradenton as a cultural destination.

That finish line, though, still remains $900,000 in cash away.