Study claims circus arena should be saved

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Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013 6:07 pm | Updated: 4:29 pm, Mon Aug 12, 2013.

VENICE, Fla. - The debate ove whether to tear down or rebuild the old circus arena in Venice is heating up again. Now those working to save it say a new independent feasibility study just released indicates promise.

"Yes, it is exciting." Larry Ivey with the Venice Circus Arts Foundation is armed with the study. He says it shows a rebuilt arena would be a valuable asset to the city. Using demographics, incomes, and potential uses the research claims it would generate an average of $2 million dollars a year for the first 10 years. "In three years it starts to make money."

The study conducted by Economic Consulting Services indicates that in order to meet the projections the arena would have to be used 32% of the time; things like circus and trade shows, sporting events, concerts and dinners...maybe even house a museum.  "The demographics show that the wealth is here in the area."

The belief is that it would cost nearly $12 million to tear down parts and restore the former winter quarters of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Venice Mayor John Holic says he's not sure it's possible. "The part that I looked at had nothing to do if it was feasible to reconstruct this building. Is it financially feasible?"

Even if it was, the mayor says there are concerns about parking, the inconvenience of road congestion, not knowing if infrastructure in the area is there to support consistent use. Oh, and where the initial investment would come from. "We don't have that type of funds. I don't know what the bare bones minimum would be to make it structurally sound and give the building integrity."

Douglas Stewart with ECS who put the study together says "The area already handles thousands of visitors with festivals on airport property." He says much smaller venues handle the projected numbers without issues.

Supporters believe the building inside is sound. Now they claim to have proof the arena would make money and so would other businesses with more visitors coming. They just need more time, help, and a commitment from the city to tout it. "With this feasibility study we hope that we could get investors and get corporate sponsorships to put up the biggest amount of the money," says Ivey.

In the last week the foundation says they've raised more than $20,000 towards saving the arena.

They have also started a campaign to save it one foot at a time with $30 donations.

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