Potential buyer fails to meet contract terms; new bidder poised to exceed $9.5 million asking price
The sale of the theater that is home to the Players Centre for Performing Arts fell apart Tuesday. The closing, originally scheduled for early Monday evening, was delayed until noon Tuesday so the Players board could address a variety of new buyer demands.
“We bent over backwards to do everything we could,” said Players board chairwoman Donna DeFant. “We gave him everything he wanted.”
That included an additional $3 million in liability insurance.
But when the time came for the buyer to cement the deal with some money, none was forthcoming by the Tuesday deadline.
The agreement then collapsed into default, DeFant said, adding, “We terminated the contract.”
But the area’s oldest performing arts organization was not caught flat-footed. DeFant expressed confidence that another bidder waiting in the wings would close on a contract within 30 days.
This alternative buyer, a Sarasota businessman, “has better qualifications,” she said. “I’m very comfortable with the second buyer.”
The new offer is “definitely more than the $9.5 million asking price,” DeFant said, just as the first one was.
The identity of the new buyer and the future of the site will be confidential until an agreement is concluded, she said.
The community theater at 838 N. Tamiami Trail has presented shows in one of two buildings on the downtown Sarasota site for about 80 years. The 2018-19 season will be the last for The Players in its existing venue.
The organization plans to invest the theater sale proceeds into construction of a $30 million theater complex in the new Waterside development in Lakewood Ranch. The organization is seeking a temporary home for shows between the old theater’s closing and the new one’s opening.
The new Players Center is expected to include a large mainstage theater for its Broadway series, a black box, flexible-seating space for smaller plays and a cabaret theater with food service. The theater now produces plays and musicals in its mainstage theater and a series of offbeat comedies and dramas in its Backstage at the Players series presented in a converted rehearsal room. The cabaret productions and food service would be new for the company.