A rendering of The Players Centre for Performing Arts coming to Waterside Place.

It may be taking longer than expected (due partly to the COVID-19 pandemic), but, eventually, at the center of Lakewood Ranch’s new Waterside community will be a new home for the venerable Players Centre for Performing Arts, based for decades near downtown Sarasota.

The 90-year-old Players, one of the first arts groups formed in the area, had been looking to move from that longtime home and expand its programs and audience base for several years. Selling the North Tamiami Trail property to a developer for $9.5 million in 2018 helped to launch them farther along toward that goal.

“This is a large project, and even with COVID we are still working towards the July 2023 break ground date, if not sooner,” says interim CEO and managing artistic director Jeffery Kin. “Part of the long-term plan is to hire a CEO whose main focus is assisting the board and advancement director Morgan Gerhart in securing the amount needed to break ground and to build the shell of our new performing arts center.” That’s an estimated $16-$18 million, and Kin says they are on course to raise those funds.

The planned center will house a mainstage theater with just under 500 seats, a black box theater seating around 130, and a cabaret/restaurant space seating just under 100. There will also be a studio/school with three rehearsal and class spaces and a convention-type space for events, along with a grassy outdoor space named The Event Plaza. Set on 4.5 acres in the Waterside Place town center, the complex is designed by architectural partners Schenkel/Schultz and Westlake Reed and Leskosky; builder is Willis Smith Construction.

For more about the Players’ future project, visit https://www.theplayers.org/.

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