The New Tampa Performing Arts Center has gone vertical and Hillsborough County could choose someone to manage it as soon as March. The NTPAC is expected to open in fall 2022. (Photo: Charmaine George)

The New Tampa Performing Arts Center (NTPAC) has finally gone vertical, and one of the final questions remaining before it opens sometime in the fall of 2022 is who will run the facility.

Ken Hagan, the Hillsborough County Commissioner for District 2, which includes New Tampa, said that decision could come by March 2022, now that the deadline for interested parties to respond to the county’s request for proposals (RFP) has passed.

The RFP was issued on Nov. 10 and expired Dec. 3, or after we went to press with this issue. The county is looking a performing arts resident company to manage all aspects of the NTPAC for 10 years, with renewal options for another 10 years, subject to annual satisfactory performance evaluations.

One of the groups that was expected to bid to manage the 20,000-sq.-ft. center is Florida Cultural Group, which was originally selected by the county staff. But, during a vote about the PAC’s funding in May, four commissioners — Mariella Smith, Kimberly Overman, Gwen Myers and Harry Cohen — voiced concerns about the organization, primarily because of its location in Manatee County.

Coomissioner Smith and Kemp, who were the dissenters in a 5-2 vote to approve the funding for the PAC, wanted a local group to run it. They also questioned the $1.4 million in county subsidies over the next four years requested by Florida Cultural Group.

The commissioners then unanimously voted to open up the facility’s management with an RFP.

Both commissioners specifically mentioned the New Tampa Players (NTP), a 20-year-old organization that was started by residents of Hunter’s Green and Tampa Palms. A large part of the effort to build the NTPAC, which is under construction off Bruce B. Downs Blvd. across from the entrance to the Hunter’s Green development, was to deliver a home for the NTP, which has staged performances at numerous locations, but none the group could call its own.

“The NTP are the driving force behind my championing the New Tampa Performing Arts Center,” Hagan says. “They are the reason. It will be their home and they are an essential partner in this being a successful and sustainable facility for generations to come.”

But, will NTPalso get to manage it? While producing artistic director Nora Paine declined comment, it is believed that NTP planned to submit a proposal. The troupe has held meetings with those involved in New Tampa’s performing arts scene in order to bolster its standing by forming a larger local and more inclusive group that includes dance and ballet.

Paine did say that NTP has not been involved in many large fund-raising campaigns. That is likely to be a major requirement for any organization that is selected to manage the new center.

About The Florida Cultural Group

Formerly known as The Manatee Players, Inc., which was created in 1947, the Florida Cultural Group is an umbrella organization that operates the Manatee Performing Arts Center and the Manatee Players community theater. It has a long track record marked by successful fundraising.

“When this issue came in front of us before, our staff was very enthusiastic about that group because of their fundraising track record,” Comm. Hagan said. “It’s paramount that we have local representation driving this partnership, but I don’t think you can ignore the importance of fundraising throughout this process.”

Hagan says he will let the county staff make the determination as to who should manage the NTPAC, but no matter who is selected, he would like to see a Board formed, and “it’s critically important that there’s a majority of New Tampa representation on that Board.”

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