House OKs $250K for Ruth Eckerd Hall outdoor venue space

The funds would help finalize completion of the England Family Music Garden.

Ruth Eckerd Hall may soon be getting an outdoor performing space after the House included the renovation funding in its bump offer Wednesday.

Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Chris Latvala filed appropriation requests (SF 1080, HB 2155) for the renovation. The request seeks $250,000 in nonrecurring funding for the 73,000-square-foot Clearwater performing arts venue to complete construction for an outdoor space. 

Although the House initially left the program out of its budget, pushback by the Senate led the lower chamber to include it in its Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations bump offer Wednesday. The proposed budget now includes the full requested funding for the renovation.

According to the request, the funding from the state would account for half the anticipated cost of the project. Another $250,000 has been provided by private donors.

The funding from the request would be used to renovate the hall’s east side landing; an outside area meant to serve as an educational space and gathering area. Specifically, funds would help finalize the completion of the England Family Music Garden, according to the request.

The nonprofit plans to use the area for “students and patrons to distance safely, outside, while participating in programming,” according to the request.

Among the uses for the space: end-of-term class performances, scholarship showcases, private lesson recitals, preshow performances, summer productions, as well as an area to feature local artists and community partners. 

Pre-pandemic, Ruth Eckerd Hall K-12 education programs reached more than 45,000 students annually and served more than 465,400 patrons. 

Students in Pinellas County schools would use the space to participate in a choral program as well, including the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts, according to the request. Professional development opportunities will also take place in this new venue, including teacher training and workshops for instructors and teaching artists from Pinellas County Schools.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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