Venice Circus Arena given chance at new life - WFLA News Channel 8

Venice Circus Arena given chance at new life

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VENICE, FL (WFLA) -

The Venice Circus Arena spent decades hosting the greatest circus performers in the world.  Now it's so dilapidated it's considered a danger to the public. It was threatened with demolition.

But the arena has now been given a chance at new life.  Among the ruins of the old Venice circus arena, the performers of the future emerge.  Tito Gaona's Flying Trapeze Academy trains children to perform the same stunts done at this spot decades ago.

Built in 1963, the Venice Circus Arena was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.  It brought in performers from around the world, until 1992.

Since then, it's fallen to disrepair, and the city deemed it unsafe.  "It could be a tourist attraction again," said Larry Ivey with the Venice Circus Arts Foundation.

This week, the Venice city council voted to allow a partial demolition.  Soon, the main arena will be stripped down to its steel supports.  "The bones will still be there," said Ivey.

After the partial demolition, the arena will no longer a danger to the community and it gives the foundation time to raise money and restore it.

"We want to partner with a developer to do something with this area significant that would make it into maybe a circus park," said Ivey.

A nearby animal training building will also be preserved. Legendary animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams spent many years preparing for his acts in Venice. The foundation wants to also restore the building and place a tribute to Williams there.

So now the work begins to find a developer and restore the arena to its former glory.  A city spokesperson says at this time, no date has been set for the partial demolition.

And who knows? Those kids training at the academy could one day perform at a restored arena in the future.

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