The Florida House and Senate seem to have reached an agreement in the first House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee budget offer made Tuesday morning on a $500,000 appropriation for Ruth Eckerd Hall improvements.
The funding, detailed in appropriation requests (LFIR 1099, HB 2357) filed by Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Chris Latvala, would be used to renovate the hall’s 40-year-old facility originally designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
The $500,000 provided by the state would account for one-third of the project’s funding, with another $1 million already secured in local and private contributions for auditorium improvements, according to the request forms.
The public funding would specifically be used to purchase and install safety, health and energy improvements like new carpet reflectors on each step and LED aisle lighting in the historic facility’s 2,200-seat main auditorium. It would also fund low-VOC paint, a new HVAC system with variable frequency drives and an air purification system.
The goal: a “cleaner, safer and more energy-efficient auditorium space for 465,000 annual visitors, as well as students, teachers, staff and performers,” the forms read. The request forms for the improvements also say that the state funding will help “leverage local and private dollars, preserve a historic state resource and enhance the future economic impact of the facility for generations to come.”
The project is part of Ruth Eckerd Hall’s $34.5 million capital campaign, which began over five years ago, according to the requests. More than $25 million has been raised to date, including over $11.5 million in funding from public sources as well as individual donors.
Last year, lawmakers secured $250,000 in nonrecurring funding for the 73,000-square-foot Clearwater performing arts venue to complete construction for an outdoor space. That funding was directed to renovate the hall’s east side landing, an outside area meant to serve as an educational space and gathering area. All in all, it helped finalize the completion of the England Family Music Garden.