Inside look at $21 million Naples Players Theater, set to open at the end of May

Reporter: Jacquelyn Kisic
Published: Updated:

After a year of construction, The Naples Players at Sugden Community Theater is set to open their door on May 31 after completing a $21 million renovation project.

In 1953, The Naples Players was a growing performance group that led them to their main venue inside the Sugden Community Theater in 1998.

For the past 25 years, the TNP facility was limited by $3 million in maintenance requirements that would not add any additional revenue-producing or community programming space.

Organizers have found that renovating and expanding could generate $1.5 million in additional revenue.

On Friday, as the theater’s 70th season approached, leaders and organizers invited WINK News for a ‘hard-hat-tour’ to showcase the new additions and construction updates.

The estimated cost of the final venue renovations is projected to be $21 million to last 30 years. Through donors and fundraising, the theater has raised 76% of that goal to date, about $15.2 million.

The Naples Players started a campaign called Capital Campaign Theme: Upholding the Arts. The main fundraiser to launch the new theater to strive for the highest community impact for all levels.

The 44,496-square-foot renovation has several major additions:

  • 660 Theater Seats
  • 6 Dressing Rooms
  • 2 Public Restroom Stalls
  • 3090 Scene Shop sq ft
  • 1836 Costume Shop sq ft

Formerly known as Blackburn Hall, it is now renamed to The Kizzie Theater. Benefited by The Baker Family, who are known for their support in the Naples art scene.

The main theater is filled with a 452-seat proscenium theater (308 seats on the main level) with an indoor balcony featuring 144 seating options.

With the new upgraded state of the art sound and lighting systems, the theater offers the only “Sensory Booth” in the country.

The Naples Players Stage Manager, Cole Butcher, explains how this will benefit all ages and be a huge asset for the Theater.

“It is a separate booth,” said Butcher, “where a family with sensory processing needs or neurodivergent individuals will be able to control the sound, the lighting, the temperature, tactile wall functions, different chairs where they can sit, and rock, and they can move in.” 

Exiting the sensory-friendly viewing area will be accessible restrooms, elevators and an exit door located off of 4th Ave South.

In addition, for those with disabilities is the Hearing-loop system. Anyone with telecoils in their hearing instruments, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or bone conductive devices can connect directly to the theater’s sound system.

A way without having the need for additional headphones or devices. For any individual who does not wear hearing aids, they can borrow a receiver and headphones at no charge.

The Naples Players revamped the Tobye Studio and renamed it The Price Studio. It is a 105-seat black box theater for major performances.

Another black theater to open, is The Glass Educational Theater donated by Denny and Tanya Glass. The Naples Players is projected to serve more than 10,000 students annually to learn more about the arts.

“We have over 4,000 titles,” said Butcher. “So we are the largest script playwriting library in Southern Florida.”

Cole said that once the library is open, it is open to the public to check out any of the playwriting books. The library is considered one way for the organizers to choose upcoming shows.

The expansion allows for a 175% increase in on-site education and programming space.

The Naples Players will feature two new restaurants: Tater Tot’s Mezzanie Bar and Annie’s Cafe.

After doubling the Theater in size, leaders and organizers are putting the Naples arts community first by becoming the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, energy-efficient theater in Florida.

“Every material that we demolished out of here, we recycled,” said Butcher. “So, the energy efficiency of recycling and protecting the planet helped get us that LEED certification.”

With the large number of upgrades, Cole said that the ticket prices will be increasing to keep up with the competitive market.

“This is now an arts destination in Southwest Florida,” said Butcher. “It’s not just about the beaches or the shopping. It is also about coming and seeing all the different theaters that produce the wonderful art we have.”

On Friday, May 31, The Naples Player will be opening their doors with their first performance: Opening Extravaganza.

The full venue, including the construction off of 4th Street South, is estimated to be completed on July 10 of this year.

The opening night weekend performance is a sold-out event. To purchase tickets for the upcoming season, click here.

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