Jacksonville, FL — Saying it will make the facility so much better, leaders of the Florida Theatre officially launched a capital campaign to complete a $10 million renovation ahead of the 100th anniversary of the downtown landmark.
WOKV first reported about the renovation plans in July, when Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget outline offered up $1 million each of the next five years to match the Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center, Inc, which is the nonprofit that runs the historic venue. Total contribution from both parties combined at $10 million.
To date, 72 donors have pledged or gifted $2.2 million toward the campaign that quietly began more than two years ago. The Theatre also instituted a $2.50 per ticket fee on all ticket sales that goes to restoration of the facility. That is projected to bring in approximately $1.5 million over the next five years.
“We’re a little over $7 million towards our $10 million goal as of today so we are super excited about all of this”, said Florida Theatre President Numa Saisselin.
Mayor Lenny Curry reflected on the decades of performances he has attended through the years at the Florida Theatre, and he looks forward to seeing the improvements come to fruition after funding was approved.
“Often times usually in a budget as large as ours some real jewels that are in the budget kind of get lost in the conversation so it’s good to be here today because this really is a jewel and a special nugget in the budget that we just put forward”, Curry said.
Theatre operators want to keep the same feel but install completely new seats. Plans involve better addressing ADA regulations- the seating arrangement now pre-dates those rules, according to Saisselin, so while the venue is in compliance, it is not always an ideal arrangement.
Beyond that, there are a few different areas to address, with the auditorium remaining the focus.
He says they want to upgrade the sound and lighting systems. Not only will this make for a more enjoyable show for you and the artist or event involved, but he says it could actually save FTPAC some money in the future, because currently, if an artist wants a certain speaker setup, the Florida Theatre may have to rent equipment, as an example.
Over 3,000 people attend Florida Theatre every week, or 175,000 per year, according to Saisselin.
The work also includes renovating the bathrooms. Air conditioning is another item on the list- updating the system so that there’s not a constant need for repairs.
The iconic marquee and canopy are also in for some work, although Saisselin says they are not changing the overall look. Digital signs were recently installed at the Florida Theatre as a result of funds from a private donor, but Saisselin says there is still internal wiring work to do on the canopy, along with structural repairs. While the canopy and marquee are not original to 1927, Saisselin says he knows it’s how people recognize the venue, and they want to respect that.