Historic' Status Goal for Circus Arena
By Greg Giles
The nonprofit Save The Arena group that formed weeks ago plans to seek historic site designation for the old Circus Arena in Venice.
Orlando Bevington, project coordinator for the Venice Circus Arts Foundation, said the group’s mission is to restore and resurrect the arena in its original form.
It’s the former winter home of the world-famous Greatest Show On Earth by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Immediate plans are to stop its demolition. Venice City Council made the decision to tear down the buildings at its Jan. 31 strategic planning workshop, calling it a blight on the city. For years city leaders hoped to find a developer willing to assume those costs, but none ever came forward.
>The group hopes to persuade the city to give it time to raise seed money to pay for a study to see if the arena meets the criteria to become a protected historic site.
An engineering analysis is planned to make sure the site physically can be preserved. The group is also offering to pay for an asbestos abatement plan. Asbestos was found in floor tiles confined to a small area in offices.
“At no cost to the city of Venice, we would like to paint the building exteriors, board up and paint missing windows and doors to secure the buildings and attempt to keep the weather out. We will be contacting high-profile companies for contributions and assistance,” Bevington wrote this week by e-mail to supporters.
Meanwhile, Bevington and Tito Gaona, a former trapeze star who founded the group, have placed a call to action for city residents to help “clean up existing shrubbery and trees to make a much more attractive view of the property as one comes over the Circus Bridge, clean up the lot and remove any graffiti, (and) erect a sign asking for help on the site.”
“We feel that sprucing up the property will help get the community behind our efforts,” Bevington said. “Once our Historical Structure Report is in and we as a group still feel that we can restore the property as planned, we would at that time present a thorough proposal for site revitalization. Our immediate intent is to save all the structures and present the restored property as close to its original appearance circa 1960 as possible (with) white walls, turquoise blue roofs, red trim.”
The next Save The Arena meeting will be held Monday, March 22, at 3:30 p.m. at Bella Luna Cafe, 200 W. Miami Ave. Venice, FL The foundation is hoping for a good turnout.
"We need contributions to pay for these reports that are necessary to evaluate the present condition of the buildings and its historical significance," Bevington said. "We need help in the cleaning up the property and painting and genrally sprucing up the site to make it more presentable to the community.
"We need people to circulate petitions of support for our project, which will be presented to the city in three weeks. We will have posters for our cause soon and would love to have them in windows of local business touting our effort, asking for contributions and signatures for our petitions."
"This is a wonderful, historical, special place, that only exist in Venice, FL," he said. "She needs our help."
Those interested in helping out can contact the foundation at email@example.com.
By Greg Giles