Cultural Center of Charlotte County to close after 61 years

A popular spot for seniors and families is closing its doors. The Cultural Center of Charlotte County is preparing for its final show.

Jackie McDaniel, who lives in Port Charlotte, says she spent most of her childhood at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.

“I remember taking ballet classes there. I took tennis classes. I mean, I did so much there over the summer as a kid,” McDaniel said. “It’s really been a cornerstone for seniors too.”

The center will have its final curtain call on November 8th after 61 years of shows, classes and services for the community.

The entire cultural center closed last spring when the pandemic began.

“We were in the middle of one of our busiest seasons. We had things booked all the way through July. Subsequently, we had to cancel all those things,” said K. Stephen Carter, the executive director for the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.

The center re-opened to an 80% drop in business. They say PPP loans helped temporarily, “We have done our best and we’re hoping it’s not the end, but it’s, we’re still trying,” said Carter.

County commissioners denied the center’s recent request for emergency funding.

The Communications Manager for the Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners said in a statement:

Last month, the Cultural Center of Charlotte County requested $300,000 from Charlotte County to fund operations. The county requested financial information about the center’s operations and finances to justify the request and the center’s plans to improve its operations and finances. While the county did receive some information, including that the center was reportedly losing more than $30,000 per month, the information did not include any business plans for improving the Center’s financial position other than raising fees for the seniors who use the center.  Ultimately, the County Commission on Oct. 26 determined it could not grant the center’s request.

The statement went on to say:

The Cultural Center rents the county-owned facility for $1 per year under a 40-year lease signed in 2000. Prior to the extension of the center’s contract in 2000, the county invested $6,436,000 in a renovation and expansion of the facility with voter-approved 1% local option sales tax revenue. The county maintains the facility, including the exterior, roof and HVAC systems. The Cultural Center funds its operations through user fees, rentals and donations.

Carter said of the emergency funding requirements, “it’s an impossible question to answer. There’s still a pandemic, that is what created this situation.”

The center says it can’t operate on a $1.8 million dollar budget with fewer sales and fewer donations.

A big loss for families and seniors who have enjoyed it for the last several decades.

“I think there are multiple generations that are disappointed in the closing,” said McDaniel.

The final show at the theater is scheduled for Monday, November 8.

The cultural center plans to close its doors to the public next Monday.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Matthew Seaver
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