Three different projects proposed for Circus Arena site

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Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 11:00 am

VENICE, Fla. -- City council members in Venice discussed the future of the old circus grounds Monday. After the city asked for ideas, three of them came forward -- all with a circus theme.

Those ideas included keeping the trapeze school, using what's left of the arena for concerts and events, and the last a circus themed miniature golf course.

John Mischel has a plan for a part of the old property, which is located between U.S. 41 and the airport. He envisions a 36-hole mini golf course with a circus theme. "At each hole we are going to have a plaque that describes some part of the circus, and the history in the area and connects to Venice."

It wasn't exactly what some city leaders, like Mayor John Holic, expected when they asked anyone to come forth with plans. “It was a surprise. A nice surprise, because I like miniature golf, but I don't think we want the property to be used for just something I would like. It has to be good for the city," says Holic.

A second plan came from former circus performer Tito Gaona to keep his trapeze school at the site.

A third proposal was submitted by the group working to save what's left of the old winter quarters of the Ringling Circus. The Venice Circus Art Foundation wants to put on a roof on what remains of the structure and use it as a place for large events.

Holic says the city was expecting more. “Maybe our communication wasn't adequate to get interest back from people. Or perhaps the FAA has higher aspirations for that land then it's really worth."

The three groups which did come forward with plans say it's not an either/or situation, and all three can coexist. "He brings in people here for the trapeze school, we are going to have families over here hopefully participating together," says Mischel.

Holic says just because they are the only ones who came forward does not mean the city has to select them to lease the land. He says it's an important decision for the city. “We want, when people come over the south bridge onto the island, to say wow. This is a nice place and I really want to visit."

And it’s perhaps the last chance to keep some form of the area’s circus history alive. "The first thing would be to refurbish the Gunther Gebel-Williams building."

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