Partial demolition of Venice Circus Arena starts - WFLA News Channel 8

Partial demolition of Venice Circus Arena starts

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VENICE, FL (WFLA) -

A historic circus arena in Venice is slowly being torn down.

But for supporters this is actually a cause for celebration.

The facility was in was terrible shape, and as this demolition is giving it a chance at new life.

On a beautiful Wednesday morning, Tito Gaona is teaching the next generation how to fly.

"Kick it up!" he yells at a young flying trapeze artist.

He now runs a school to teach the craft.

He's a retired circus performer- the flying trapeze was his lifelong passion and he wowed crowds the world over.

His former training ground, the Venice Circus Arena, is being torn down. To him this is a beautiful sight.

Gaona said, "This is all bypass surgery. They got another chance to make it breathe and live."

From the 60s until the 90s, the Venice Circus Arena was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers circus.

But after the circus left town in 1992, the structure decayed. A few months ago, the city deemed it unsafe.

Now, work crews are carefully tearing it down through a 'surgical demolition'. That's where they'll remove the rotten wood and the roof, and leave the exposed steel structure.

Larry Ivey with the Venice Circus Arts Foundation said, "It's getting started, so we think we're on our way."

The Venice Circus Arts Foundation is raising money to set up an open air pavilion here. By putting on circus acts and concerts, they hope to collect enough funds to turn this plot of land into a major tourist attraction.

Ivey said, "Our big dream is to re-construct the arena and have it be an events center for the city of Venice."

Right now, workers have already torn down a nearby warehouse. They've also removed the roof of an animal training building.

There, famed animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams worked with lions and tigers.

They hope to restore the building into a museum.

Gaona recalls a big part of this city's history was tied to this plot of land.

He said, "You see the symbol…'Home of the Greatest Show on Earth, Venice Florida.' You couldn't buy that publicity. That's why it's a landmark and it should be preserved."

The arena supporters say the demolition work should be completed by October.

A number of different circus performers and sponsors have come forward to help raise money for a new arena.

So for Gaona, the future is looking bright. Not only is he helping tomorrow's circus performers, but he's also helping to give them a new home.

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