For more information, or to get involved in the project, call the Marco Island Center for the Arts, 239-394-4221.
1010 Winterberry Drive, Marco
1055 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
180 South Heathwood Drive, Marco
MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island's cultural leaders want it to be an arts destination, and they mean to literally set the stage — with a theater.
The tentatively 200-seat building would be sophisticated enough to include what's called "fly space" for changing backgrounds and acoustically versatile enough to accommodate concerts as well as stage musicals.
The location would be on the property beside the current Marco Island Center for the Arts. The building's proponents, within the space of a month, have secured the blessings of their boards, which they say held a joint meeting to hear the proposal.
This week, representatives from Marco Players, the Marco Island Center for the Arts and the Marco Island Friends of the Bach Ensemble are holding meetings to streamline a business plan and develop a capital campaign. They made a formal announcement at the annual Marco arts meeting with the United Arts Council of Collier County Thursday morning.
While they're calling it "exploratory," they have even consulted a local architect, Pat Kaikini, who is on the art center board. The price tag, according to a sampling of new venues around the nation, would be at least $5 million. The informal group behind the initiative hasn't set a cost estimate; however it has commissioned preliminary drawings.
"A project like this is very doable if Marco Island decides to get behind it and really understands its value," said Lynn Holley, executive director of the Marco Island Center for the Arts.
She was making that comment at a meeting inside the product of another community force of will: the $4-million Marco Island Historical Museum on South Heathwood Drive. The success in building the 2-year-old museum, which reported nearly 6,500 visitors from January through April, has buoyed enthusiasm for an island performance venue. There are other strong factors:
The sold-out, and bursting at the seams, venue for Marco Players at Town Center Mall. Its theater space currently holds only 83 seats. A theater, said Beverly Dahlstrom, president of the Marco Players, would "give us room to do musicals and all sorts of things we can't offer now."
A need for concert and rehearsal space for the Bach Ensemble, a chamber chorale that has both Naples and Marco Island members.
A growing community, with 15,000 residents year-round and 35,000 during the tourist season, that has no dedicated performance space.
The hope, from local cultural leaders, to make Winterberry Drive around the Center for the Arts a cultural district. Holley's long-term hope is to add studios for artists, to bring them to work and show there.
She may have a ready-made clientele. The Esplanade, where a baker's dozen artists have had studio space at a low cost during high-vacancy times, has been sold to an entity under Continental Realty Corp., a Baltimore, Md., real estate investment and development group. Several artists say they have been told rents will rise.
The Hilton Marco Island also has been supportive of the concept of a theater, which would be walking distance. The location is within walking distance of three hotels and five restaurants, giving it tourist appeal.
"This is what Marco Island needs — an arts and theater district," said Alan Sandlin, a local Realtor and former Marco Island Historical Society president who was at the Thursday meeting. "How many times have we heard Naples and Marco in the news as in the top 10 in the country — for the arts, for the friendliest, for the best quality of life?"
In the past, he said, the island has watched as Naples groups collaborated to create synergy. Now, he said, it's Marco's time.
"In the last few years, we've grown up enough to realize we all have to work together," he said.
His own organization is tied into the operation of the historical museum, which has one of the larger gathering spaces on the island, with a 250-300-seat capacity in its Rose History Auditorium. But it already holds a theater program, that of the one-year-old Island Players. The room also is more oriented to multipurpose — wedding receptions, graduation parties and conference. The other two large assembly spaces on the island, with about 500 spaces each, are church sanctuaries.
Proponents of the Marco Island theater are ahead of most other organizations. The Marco Island Center for the Arts already owns the property on which the theater would be located, and has a sizable parking lot on it as well.
"And there's no mortgage," Holley said.
Those interested in more information may call the Marco Island Center for the Arts, 239-394-4221.