By Matt Wiley
Beyond the new retention ponds across Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. from the entrance to Hunter’s Green is an 80-acre piece of land that will one day be home to a New Tampa community theater and performing arts center, if all goes according to plan for the New Tampa Players (NTP) community theatre troupe.
NTP will be hosting its annual “Broadway Comes to Tampa” event on Saturday, May 12 (see story on page 50), to raise money for the estimated $5-million cost of building the theater on the site. The event features a concert performed by some of Broadway’s biggest stars, as well as a silent auction and raffle.
“Depending upon how the auction goes and our sponsors, we will raise anywhere between $10,000 – $30,000,” says NTP president Doug Wall.
The proposed theater will be built on donated land currently owned by the Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation Department. The project began as a push by Graeme Woodbrook and his New Tampa Cultural Center group (and NTP) in 2002 for what was originally planned as the New Tampa Cultural Center, that would not only include the community theater, but also classrooms, meeting and rehearsal spaces and more. Problems with funding and the County Commission’s requirements caused Woodbrook to scrap his plan in 2005. However, NTP always has still been pushing to build the theater.
“We’ve gotten the county to commit to some property, but there are tons of strings attached,” he explains. “We’ve really just been trying to appease the County Commission for a few years now.”
All of the land for the theater was originally set aside for retention ponds for the widening of BBD, but it was discovered that 14 acres could still be developed, a portion of which could be used for the theater.
Wall says that the county committed to donating the property to NTP in 2010, and that, in addition to the community theater, it also was planned at that time to be used for a proposed ice-skating rink and sports complex, but that project also fell through.
District 2 Hillsborough County commissioner Victor Crist, whose district includes all of New Tampa, says that, if NTP can find the money for the “bricks and mortar” for the proposed community theater, the county is still willing to provide the infrastructure for it. He adds that the county plans to use the rest of the land for a community park, but that there are no “formal” plans for that park at this time.
“I believe that the performing arts theater will happen,” says Crist. “It may take longer because of the economy, but I believe that it will happen.”
Wall says that once things are set with the land, the group will start an even more aggressive capital campaign to get things rolling.
The Players still have a ways to go with raising funds before the theater project can commence, but their upcoming “Broadway Comes to Tampa” event will help to raise money and awareness of NTP.
“We can sit and wait, or we can be proactive,” Wall says. “That’s what we’re doing.”
For more information about the New Tampa Players, please visit NewTampaPlayers.org. For more info about Broadway Comes to Tampa, including bios on all of this year’s stars and ticket information, visit BroadwayComesToTampa.com or call 386-9333.