Community voices concerns at Payne Park development meeting

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SARASOTA, Fla.- The future of the popular, Payne Park, is up to the community of Sarasota. Monday evening, the city gave residents the opportunity to express their ideas and fears regarding the future of Payne Park auditorium.

The rumored demolition of Payne Park Auditorium had the community in an uproar at Monday evening's meeting.

The city of Sarasota hosted a community vision workshop, at Payne Park Auditorium, to discuss what is best for the future development of the park. Todd Kucharski, with Sarasota Public Works, led the discussion and opened the floor to the community to share their ideas and hopes.

“We want to get as much community feedback, and I think we've gotten that,” says Kucharski.

Over 50 people attended the meeting and the major topic of discussion was the future of the auditorium. To many, it is home to priceless memories they made growing up in Sarasota.

I was going to throw my body in front of the door if they tore this down. So I was going to be here to have a voice,” says Susan Chapman.

Susan Chapman has lived on the Suncoast for 58 years and spent much of her childhood listening to big band music and dancing in this auditorium.

“I've loved Sarasota like mad, and that's the reason I’m here tonight,” says Chapman.

Others believe with some rehabilitation and maintenance, the auditorium can be used for future events, association meetings, and even weddings. A few other ideas, for the development of the park, were brought up, like a dog park.

“We need more places for the dogs to go because, as somebody pointed out, they can be a little bit under foot if they don't have their own area,” says Meg Nichol, a Sarasota resident.

The popular, downtown Payne Park was developed in 2007, and since then a skate park, playground, tennis courts and sidewalks for joggers have filled up the park, but there is still hope for more park development and preservation of a building that many say is historic.

“I think it's good that the community came out and talked about it. That's what we need to find out so that we can move forward,” says Kucharski.

Public Works says at this time there is no money in the budget specifically to upgrade the park, but the purpose of the meeting was to make sure the city understands what the community wants to see and enjoy as they move forward in the development of Payne Park.