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New performing arts center's first show is tonight

A free concert by the Civic Orchestra will inaugurate the city-owned facility.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published November 4, 2007


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PINELLAS PARK- The building that once resounded with sounds of the faithful singing hymns is ready to reverberate to the rhythm of show tunes, swing and opera.

Yes, opera. In Pinellas Park.

As amazing as it may sound, this city could become home to the Sunstate Opera Society, which is billed on one Web site as the "leading regional opera company of St. Petersburg, Florida in the United States."

That's just one of the possibilities city officials envision now that Pinellas Park's Performing Arts Center is open. The center, at 4951 78th Ave. N, is in the former sanctuary of the Pinellas Park Baptist Temple, which the city bought in 2003 for $3-million. At the time, officials had no clear idea of a use for the property but estimated it would take up to another $3-million to renovate.

For the first few years after the purchase, the church remained in the building while its new home in the former Joyland was renovated. The church paid $12,500 a month in rent. When the Baptist Temple moved out, the city rented the first floor of the front building to the Classical Christian School for the Arts.

Tim Caddell, the city's spokesman and event director, had been salivating at the thought of using the property as a performing arts center. With the sanctuary vacant, he saw his chance and persuaded officials to let him take charge of the building.

After spending $500,000 for a total renovation and sound equipment, Caddell saw his wish take shape. The performing arts center opened Friday and will have its first performance at 7:30 p.m. today when the Pinellas Park Civic Orchestra gives a free concert.

"They do accept donations, but they don't badger people for them," Caddell said. "You don't have to get up and run out before the last song."

Next Sunday, the venue will feature the Sunsation Show Chorus at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15.

Caddell said the venue, which has seating for 500 but space for 700, gives the city a chance "to do all sorts of things we did not do before."

That can include trade shows as well as plays and concerts.

How about the annual porn awards show? The event was held at the Pinellas Expo Center, which is now closed.

Caddell laughed at the thought: "No. Gee."

But if not the porn awards, the center could become the permanent home base for the Sunstate Opera Society. The society's leaders have already inquired about the possibility.

Caddell's first reaction was disbelief, especially when he discovered the organization is based in Pinellas Park.

"Who'd have thought?" he asked. "See, if you build it, they will come."

[Last modified November 3, 2007, 22:02:09]


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