The Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center is at 4951 78th Ave. N.
PINELLAS PARK – A decade ago, when the property where the Performing Arts Center stands today at 4951 78th Ave. N. in Pinellas Park became available, the city decided it should become part of its campus.
“But we didn’t really know what we wanted to do with it,” said Tim Caddell, former government relations administrator, in an interview with the Beacon prior to his retirement last year. “They really let me run with that as far as converting it into a performing arts center.”
City staff pulled together to turn the PAC into the theater it is today. They had to completely gut the building, though.
“All the work was done in house, and everybody worked together to take a church and convert it into the Performing Arts Center,” he said. “It’s become a really popular part of the city. It’s constantly being rented out.”
At first, the city treated it solely as a rental property, though, said Pam Roberts, public programming coordinator. The Pinellas Park Orchestra has performed there for years and it’s available to businesses, organizations and individuals to rent.
“But then we thought along the way why just have it for rentals? Why not have a real performing arts center?” she said.
The city realized immediately that it wouldn’t be able to compete with venues like Ruth Eckerd Hall or the Mahaffey Theater.
“We couldn’t get a very expensive, top-rated musician in there,” Roberts said. “Our audience couldn’t handle the ticket price.”
The theater offers 604 seats, she explained, which would make it difficult financially to host some of the acts other venues can handle because they’re much larger.
Instead, she said, Pinellas Park’s Performing Arts Center found a niche for itself – tribute bands.
Roberts said, “We’ve worked very hard at offering quality top tribute acts for a moderate price.”
She added, “People love the tributes.”
It appeals to nostalgia for them, she said.
“This is the music from when they were younger. People aren’t coming for the bands, they’re coming for the songs,” she said. “It allows them to reminisce about another time in their life.”
The acts draw people from throughout the Tampa Bay region – Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco counties – not just Pinellas County, she said.
“We’re centrally located,” she said. “We’re in the heart of the other cities.”
Attendees have come from as far away as Miami, she added, and often, the venue attracts individuals on vacation from all over the United States and Canada.
The past five shows have sold out, Roberts said. The city just announced its next batch of concerts, starting Saturday, June 10 with a Frankie Valli Tribute act. Other bands coming up – many of them local favorites – include a Patsy Cline Tribute, Sounds of Soul, the Rockin’ Oldies Show, The British Invasion, America’s Diamond – Neil Diamond Tribute and Ethan Borthnick.
The city continues to invest in the venue. Last year, the lighting and sound system at the PAC were upgraded. The building also had new carpeting and seating installed, as well as a “grand curtain,” Roberts said.
As she focuses on programming at the PAC, she dreams of what it could be down the road, though she’s the first to say, “It’s not my decision to make.”
Still, she would like to see the venue expanded to fit more seating.
“It could be an even larger facility,” she said. “Instead of just tributes, we could have a mix of acts.”
She’d also like to eventually see a parking garage built nearby. It could be utilized during events at the PAC and at nearby England Brothers Park.
Still, she relishes the PAC’s unique programming niche at the moment.
“We’re offering what I don’t believe others can offer right now,” Roberts said.
Plus, she said, “It’s a nice cozy room. It is a concert, but at the same time, it’s just the feeling, the atmosphere when you’re there. It’s not a huge concert hall. It’s really intimate.”
Editor’s note: This is part of a series on the city’s Community Redevelopment District. Each month, the Pinellas Park Beacon will focus on a different aspect of the CRD.