Sarasota performing arts theater moves forward with $8M project

The $8 million theater project at Payne Park is moving forward for Sarasota’s community theater The Players Centre for Performing Arts.

The theater formed a wholly owned subsidiary nonprofit called The Stage at Payne Park LLC that’s in charge of the capital campaign fundraising. The Players expects the remodel of the existing Payne Park auditorium to cost $8 million but is matching community donations up to $4 million.

The theater has been in pursuit of a new home since 2016 when the organization sold its downtown Sarasota property. In 2018, The Players entered an agreement with Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch to build a $30 million theater complex at Waterside Village. But in March of 2022, the developers issued a statement that they had terminated its agreement with The Players.

In 2020, the theater moved performances to a temporary location in vacant retail space at The Crossings at Siesta on South Tamiami Trail. Working with the Sarasota City Commission since 2022 to find a more permanent location, the group finally received approval in October to occupy the Payne Park space. 

Through The Players 10-year lease agreement for its future home, the city approved the terms for The Stage, which will be located at 2100 E. Laurel St., Sarasota. The capital campaign will kick off in September. The project is expected to be completed by September 2025 in time for the 2025-26 theater season. 

The Stage subsidiary is being led by the following members: 

  • Brian McCarthy, CEO of The Stage, The Players board member and CEO of The Pickleball Club LLC.
  • David Sanders, CFO of The Stage and The Players board member and financial advisor
  • Steven Butler, The Stage chair of the community consortium committee and The Players artistic director
  • Nancy Jenkins, project manager for new construction
  • Bill Porter, The Stage advisory board member and The Players Board of Trustees chair
  • William Skaggs, The Stage advisory board member and The Players CEO

“We’ve assembled a great group to advise on design, acoustics, programming, sound and lighting to make sure we develop a facility appropriate for our performing arts community,” McCarthy says in a release. “We envision The Stage at Payne Park being a performing arts incubator and a place to host performances by The Players and other performing arts organizations wishing to share the venue and services to increase operating efficiencies and lower their overhead costs.”  

The first steps The Stage will be taking include holding focus groups made up of performing arts organizations to receive feedback on design. 

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