Auditorium faces uncertain future in Payne Park

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SARASOTA, Fla. - A long-standing Sarasota landmark could soon be torn down. City officials say the Payne Park Auditorium is not used enough and is too expensive to run, but some residents want it saved.

The building is about fifty years old, but city officials say it costs more to keep up than it makes in revenue, and now the city is looking into the option of tearing the whole thing down.

The few people who use it though, hope they can find another option.

"I think it's a shame, it's a nice building." Sig Harder and his band have been playing music at the auditorium for the past fifteen years. "On a bad night, we get a little over a hundred people, on a good night it could be over 200."

They play at dances put on by the Adult Singles Club of Sarasota-Manatee. “It’s a good meeting place; they get to meet each other, they love to dance."

But the good times on the dance floor may soon be coming to an end. "Right now we are running a deficit of about $40,000 a year by keeping the facility open," says Jan Thornburg with the City of Sarasota.

The city has budgeted about $80,000 to demolish the structure. "That doesn't mean that its necessarily going to happen, though."

Currently the singles club is only one of two groups using the facility on a regular basis, and officials say the building has a range of problems. "There are issues with the floor, the heating, the air conditioning, the ventilation…I understand some termite problems as well."

The question now is what do to? Tear it down or give it some TLC? Estimates have put a complete overhaul of the building at more than half a million dollars. "When it comes to any type of structure in the city of Sarasota, we know that people are very sensitive and they are very architecturally-minded," says Thornburg.

City leaders hope to get the input of local architecture experts and neighbors in the coming weeks.

As for Harder, he's not sure how much longer the music will keep on playing. "I don't know what to say, it's so uncertain."

At this point, no decision has been made. This is the second year in a row that the city has budgeted for the demolition of the building. We'll just have to wait and see what they decide.

The city hopes to start exploring their options sometime this fall, and start getting input from neighbors and architectural experts.