ELLENTON, Fla. (AP) - The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was once synonymous with Sarasota, its winter home for more than three decades. Now another Florida county hopes to establish a similarly long connection with "The Greatest Show on Earth."
The parent company of the circus, Feld Entertainment, plans to consolidate its operations in the Tampa Bay area.
The circus will move its winter quarters, currently at the Florida State Fairgrounds, to a new 47-acre campus set to open in Ellenton next year, Feld spokesman Stephen Payne told The Herald.
Feld, which also produces other live shows such as Disney on Ice, also plans to relocate its global headquarters from Vienna, Va., to Manatee County over the next five years. Costumes, sets, lights and sound equipment that Feld currently keeps on a 4-acre campus in Palmetto also will move to Ellenton.
"After the first of the year, we are going to start migrating from Palmetto," Payne said. "We're hoping to have it up and running on a much larger scale by next summer."
The Ellenton campus also will be available to outside touring companies, Payne said.
Feld, a privately held family company, bought the circus in 1967. Company officials told The Associated Press earlier this year that its business remains steady, with the circus drawing more than 10 million people a year to its shows in the U.S.
Feld will keep its 148 existing employees and is expected to add 235 new jobs over the next five years, according to the Manatee Economic Development Corp.
"We are already moving certain people down to Florida from Virginia," Payne said. "After the move is completed, we will continue to add jobs locally from Manatee and surrounding counties. We want to become part of the community and one of the large employers in the county."