Circus Arena Gets Reprieve
By Greg Giles
To applause, Venice City Council granted the Venice Circus Arts Foundation six months to come up with a viable revitalization plan to bring the dilapidated Circus Arena back to its former glory, or it will proceed with demolition as planned.
The site was the winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for 30 years until it left town in 1992.
“We did it!” said Orlando Bevington, administrator for the group, at city hall following a presentation by the group and dozens of supporters.
“Our members David Sherman, Dan Ionescu, Karen Dove, and Mark Gebel were flawless in their presentations and passion for this project. We win a six month reprieve from any more talk of demolition. We get to paint the buildings, clean up the lot, and remove all the graffiti, fix the fence, and put up our sign soliciting support. We will also begin the fund raising campaigns.”
“The big work begins now and we will be exploring possible partnerships and collaborations for sharing the space at the arena. Putting together renovation plans, fund raising plans and a formal business plan.”
Tito Gaona, a former trapeze artist with the circus and founder of the group, was there with his family.
The group presented a petition with 911 signatures collected in two weeks supporting the effort.
Ionescu, architect with Fleischman Garcia Architecture, made one of the presentations on behalf of the group.
“I am overwhelmed by Dan’s expertise and passion for saving properties such as this,” Bevington said. “It is very exciting to have him on board and leading the charge … on this massive project.”
Dove, a resource development officer and grant writer who has acquired millions of dollars in grants for her clients, also committed to work with the foundation for several months as it becomes established.
Sherman proposed to “green” the arena’s roof with solar panels.
Former three-term council member Earl Midlam said the city should foot at least part of the bill for its rehabilitation.
“Council has allowed the building to get into the condition that it is in now, in that the building was not secured and the windows and doors were not boarded up once Ringling left town,” he said. “Any other business in this city would have had code enforcement hounding them. The city is to be held responsible for its current condition, beautification and safety.”