Naples theater set to build new cultural campus, theater and education center

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
(Left to right) John McDaniel and Jason Danieley perform during the celebration of Gulfshore Playhouse’s new cultural campus, theater and education center in Naples Wednesday, April 21, 2021. They hope the campus is completed in 2023. Credit: WINK News.

A boost for Southwest Florida is coming. A new theater will help to create jobs, entertainment and promote an industry hit hard by the pandemic.

Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples is expanding at a time when most theaters are only recently reopening. It’s new campus will bring more than $20 million a year to the area.

The center is also bringing jobs in the creative industry and redevelopment industry to the area east of US-41 in Naples.

Gulfshore Playhouse hosted an event with Broadway performers to celebrate its new cultural campus, theater and education center Wednesday. Performers flew in to Southwest Florida to put on the show.

“I’ve been starring in Broadway shows since I was 25; I’m now 50,” Broadway performer Jason Danieley said.

The performance in Naples was Danieley’s first live performance in a year.

“The pandemic has been really hard on the arts,” said John McDaniel, a musical composer and conductor.

The new campus is slated to turn 3 acres near Baker Park into a home for world class arts.

“It really gives the industry something as a whole to look forward too,” Danieley said.

It will bring in 400 artists a year, who can spend money in Naples during their visit

“I’m staying on Inn on 5th, which is really nice,” McDaniel said.

The center will break ground in September.

“We’ve got construction workers; we’ve got general contractors,” explained Kristen Coury, the CEO and artistic director of Gulfshore Playhouse.

There will be nearly 60 full-time positions when the building opens and performances take stage

“We have a whole number of programs, so we’re actually bringing in people who are Broadway quality to work with students,” said Steve Akin, the board chairman for Gulfshore Playhouse.

The hope is construction will finish up sometime in the fall of 2023. A new parking garage is also a part of the project, not only to support the theater but make it easier for those parking at surrounding shops or restaurants downtown to find spots too.

“By our numbers, we anticipate being responsible for about $20 million a year of economic impact into downtown Naples,” Coury said.

MORE: Gulfshore Playhouse website

Patty & Jay Baker have donated $10 million for the naming of the theater. They also pledged to match any donation up to $10 million for the new Cultural Campus for donations made now through July 4.

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