Controversy over proposed new home for Sarasota Orchestra

Sarasota County

The Sarasota Orchestra wants to build a brand new state of the art facility and it’s causing quite a controversy. The proposed music hall would be built in a beloved tennis complex and residents are fighting back.

Just blocks away from downtown, Payne Park is a serene spot to suit anyone’s tastes. As you stroll through the sprawling park, you can take in the sounds of nature, the skateboarders or the tennis players.

But you could soon be hearing the sounds of Beethoven.

The Sarasota Orchestra is looking for a new home, and after much research, it has picked Payne Park. Specifically, they want their new music hall to be built where the tennis complex is right now.

“This is a hundred year vision for the orchestra,” said Sarasota Orchestra CEO Joseph McKenna.

More than a thousand people have signed a petition to stop this proposal.

“So much green space is going to high rise condos and things like that and this is beautiful and everybody can use it,” said resident Faith Fippinger.

The orchestra has outgrown its current facility and wants a large space to also accommodate other performers and youth organizations. They plan to relocate the tennis facility elsewhere in the park. But many residents see this as a land grab.

“As soon as people hear about this plan, they’re either horrified, outraged or just shocked that anybody would propose putting the biggest building in Sarasota by square footage in the middle of our public park. It’s just outrageous,” said Kelly Franklin with Preserve Payne Park.

Sarasota has some big plans to revitalize the bay front. So why doesn’t the orchestra stay here?

For starters, the orchestra wants to give residents and tourists greater access to the bay.

“The other advantage to moving a little more inland, it moves us away from tidal surge and coastal events which are becoming increasingly more common as a result of climate change,” said McKenna.

City commissioners will discuss the plans next week and the orchestra is listening to feedback. 

“I think its healthy to raise concerns,” said McKenna. “We’ve been gathering input and feedback and insight from the community to help us refine the planning.”

“Folks aren’t against the orchestra. They’re against the orchestra in this inappropriate location,” explained Franklin.

Officials hope to have a new music hall built sometime in the next five years.

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