Sarasota Orchestra eyes Payne Park as new home

Sarasota Orchestra eyes Payne Park as new home

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Payne Park might serve a new purpose in the future. The Sarasota Orchestra has officially set its sights on the park to be the new home of their music hall.

Much of the park would remain the same, but this would mean the tennis courts on the City-owned property would be relocated.

“I would be deeply troubled by that,” said Joe Miller.

He’s been a member of Payne Park Tennis Center for 11 years. Miller wasn’t happy with any proposal to move the courts that were his main reason for moving to Sarasota in the first place.

“It’s just a perfect spot and we would be deeply troubled and oppose it with every fiber of our breaths, I would tell you," Miller said. "Because we just like this place so well.”

Orchestra staff said they’ve been searching for a new location within City limits for nearly a year.

Payne Park is ideal because it would get them out of the flood zone and potentially enable the use of the County’s parking garage on Ringling Boulevard.

“Our goal was to not be disruptive to the existing park," said Joseph McKenna, President and CEO of the Sarasota Orchestra. "All of the green space, in terms of the children’s play area and the walking tract and all the green area, remains in tact.”

McKenna said the proposed 1,800 seat concert hall and 700 seat recital hall would sit on seven acres of park property.

“We do require the movement of tennis," McKenna explained. "But the goal is to upgrade those facilities so that the 12 tennis courts would get rebuilt on site to make room for where the Music Center would land.”

So far, City Commissioners said they’re on board with leasing this portion of the park to the Orchestra.

“I’m excited about this project," said Commissioner Hagen Brody. "I think there are some questions that remain to be answered, but that’s okay.”

The Commissioner questioned how much this will disrupt the beloved Payne Park Tennis Center, but was comforted by the Orchestra’s promise to build new courts before the standing 12 are torn down.

Commissioner Brody said this would mean keeping the arts of Sarasota near and in tact, too.

“One of my priorities is that we maintain our community assets and the arts is integral to the fabric of this community," Commissioner Brody said.

Though this is just the beginning, the Commission urged the Orchestra to get the community’s input about the proposal before moving forward.

The Orchestra said once they decide on a plan, it will take at least five years for design and construction.

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