Senate agrees to funding for Sarasota arts venue

The performing arts center will be a centerpiece for The Bay development.

The Senate agreed to help fund construction of a Sarasota performance venue. The huge facility would replace the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall as the premier stage in town.

The House had included $284,000 in its State Department Budget for the Sarasota Performing Arts Center. The $275-million venue serves as a centerpiece for the ambitious redevelopment of The Bay on 53-acres of publicly owned land on Sarasota’s Bayfront.

The plans for a new center bill it as “the preeminent destination for the performing arts in the nation.”

“The Van Wezel Hall has defined the cultural fabric of Sarasota for 50 years, hosting 250K+ visitors annually,” wrote Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, in a funding request.

“A new state-of-the-art Sarasota Performing Arts Center will replace the current building, which is end of life and is essential to regional economic recovery post-pandemic creating 4,000+ jobs over the next 5-7 years and employing 100+ full-time staff upon completion. Additionally the project’s engineering and architecture will become a global model for environmental & sustainable design.”

Plans for The Bay have been underway regionally for years, with the indoor and outdoor performing space a critical element.

The community touts its cultural resources above all assets, except, perhaps, its beaches.

McFarland requested $284,000 this year but also requested the state commit to supporting the project for two years.

The plan is for the full cost of the property to be split 50-50 between public and private sources.

The state portion of the funding will go toward hiring a management consultant to lead a five-stage architect-design team selection process. The team will employ a theater planning consultant and the plan calls for civil engineering focused on coastal resilience and sea level rise.

“The Performing Arts Center will provide the community and surrounding counties with access to the arts through year-round performances and exhibits,” McFarland’s request states. “The facility will also provide much needed event space in downtown Sarasota and green space for outdoor community activities.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn