VENICE, Fla. - As the local population grows, local officials are looking for new development opportunities. In Venice, officials plan to vote on the future of two well-known landmarks in the city -- both on airport property.
The city will now look at partially tearing down the former Ringling Brothers arena, which sits on the northeast corner of Venice Municipal Airport property; and also purchasing the waterfront land Sharky's Restaurant sits on from the own airport.
Both properties have been a point of debate in recent years.
Those who have worked to save the arena say the news of tearing down some of it is better than the possibility of losing the whole thing.
Former Ringling Brothers performer Tito Gaona and the Venice Circus Arts Foundation have worked for years to save the old arena. "If we stick together and work together to save some history here, I think that was my goal," says Gaona.
He’s still optimistic, even after Venice city leaders vote to potentially tear down everything except for its bones. "Remove the roof and the siding from the arena and leave the steel structure and concrete there," says Mayor John Holic.
Recently the city cited itself for the building’s condition, referencing obvious building code violations and giving themselves a 60 day notice.
“I wish it would be a little bit better upkept." For those like Ron Petrucci, who see it every day, it is a not so pretty sight. He’s still concerned though with losing a piece of history. “I hate to see history taken apart. I do enjoy that part. It does not bother me."
Gaona says it would lose a little something, but tearing out the wood and roof is something they likely would have had to do anyway. "At least they considered keeping the steel, keeping the arena, taking away all that stuff…and then that gives us a chance to say people step up."
However, Venice mayor John Holic says it doesn't necessarily mean the rest couldn't go soon after. "The remaining portions of that building would actually have some value as scrap. It would actually make the lot more valuable than it is today."
Gaona says with portions gone, they may be able to hold more fundraisers and events with tents on site. A drawing was even posted on the organization’s Facebook page with how it could look. "I think they should clean it up, open it up and see what is really behind it."
Holic says they have recently learned they can spend money in the airport’s enterprise fund for demolition. "I am a supporter of the arena, but I am also very much a realist. In the three year period since this has started, no one has stepped forward to put any sizable contribution to fix it up."
But for some the dream of saving the old big top -- at least in part -- still lives. "I still see potential. I do."
The city will now look at getting price quotes for a full tear down and a partial one.
As for the Sharky’s property at the Venice Pier, the city will be buying the land Sharky's sits on for more than $2 million from the airport.