Hillsborough County Dist. 2 Commissioner Ken Hagan called it a “great day in New Tampa” as he joined New Tampa Players president Nora Paine, Dist. 3 Commissioner Gwen Myers and deputy county administrator Greg Horwedel at the groundbreaking of the New Tampa Performing Arts Center on July 8. (Photos: Charmaine George)

Rendering of the New Tampa Performing Arts Center (above).

Nearly 20 years to the day that the idea of a New Tampa cultural center was hatched by a nine-member volunteer committee comprised mostly of Hunter’s Green residents, the project’s very long and very winding road finally has come to an end, ironically, right across Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. from the entrance to Hunter’s Green.

Ground was officially broken July 8 on what is now called the New Tampa Performing Arts Center (PAC) behind the new Village at Hunter’s Lake retail center.

Hillsborough County Commmissioners Ken Hagan (District 2) and Gwen Myers (District 3), New Tampa Players president Nora Paine and deputy county administrator Greg Horwedel used gold shovels to sling a few piles of mud (thanks, Elsa!) to officially kick off the construction of the PAC.

“What a great day it is here in New Tampa,” Hagan told a crowd of about 60. “Elsa passed, last night the Tampa Bay Lightning secured their place in history with back-to-back championships and today, we’re breaking ground on this long-awaited and much-needed facility.”

The 20,000-sq.-ft. PAC was designed by Fleischman Garcia Architects. It is expandable to 30,000-sq. ft. with the addition of a second floor, which would require additional funding down the road.

The PAC features a 350-seat theater and four other rooms that can be used by the community for a variety of purposes, as well as a state-of-the-art lobby.

After years of complications and reboots, the County Commission, with opposition from District 5 commissioner Mariella Smith and District 6 commissioner Pat Kemp, voted 5-2 to approve a $7.3-million construction contract to Dunedin-based Bandes Construction.

While Hagan was the driving force to get the project to the end of the road, he thanked previous commissioner and Hunter’s Green resident Victor Crist for his years diligently shepherding the project, and current District 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera, who rallied the city to contribute to the operating costs when the project appeared to be hitting another snag in April of this year.

The original idea behind the New Tampa cultural center was to find a home for local acting troupes like the New Tampa Players (NTP), which has had a gypsy-like existence. The group staged their first production, “They’re Playing Our Song,” at Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club in September and at Hunter’s Green Club in October of 2022.

It was former NTP leader Doug Wall’s dream to see the PAC become the troupe’s primary home.

Wall passed away in 2017 after a bout with cancer.

“This means a ton to us,” said Paine, holding back tears. “It’s been a long time coming. He’s not here but he really should be. I know he’s here with us in spirit, though.”

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