After years of persistence, Land O’ Lakes finally has a place where residents can gather to hear concerts, watch plays or gather for other community events.
Construction of the Land O’ Lakes Community Stage is completed and the venue is now ready for groups to use it, said Sandy Graves, one of the prime movers behind getting the project done.
Graves has been talking for decades about the need for a venue to generate a greater sense of community and provide a place where people could gather for old-fashioned fun.
Finally, construction of the stage has been completed, and Graves and Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent for Pasco County Schools, threw a topping-off party on July 6 to thank those who played a role in pulling the project off.
About 65 people were expected, Graves said.
The party featured a barbecue and entertainment by Union West, a band made up of Steve and Cindy West.
Guests also were offered a turkey leg to take home, as a memento of the evening.
The turkey legs served as a reminder of the turkey legs that volunteers with the Heritage Park Foundation sold for years at the Flapjack Festival to raise money for the stage.
Joanne Hurley, retired Pasco County School Board member, recalled those efforts. “We were raising money, a dollar at a time through the sale of those turkey legs.
“We had car shows, anything we could do to raise a little bit of money,” she said.
In the end, it took a $250,000 state grant, and a partnership between governments, businesses and community volunteers to bring the vision to life.
The open-air stage is on a grassy area, west of a fenced-in ballfield at Land O’ Lakes Community Park, 5401 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
It is the latest improvement at the park, which underwent a $2.3 million makeover that included additional amenities and upgraded facilities.
Graves said Richard Corcoran, now Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, played a critical role in securing the state’s Division of Cultural Affairs grant for the stage.
But, during the Aug. 16 groundbreaking ceremony for the stage, Corcoran credited Graves for her passionate persistence.
“Sandy — she just dogged it, day in and day out,” Corcoran said. “The perseverance is something I’ve never seen.”
Gadd played a leadership role in securing help from business partners — in the form of donated or at-cost goods or services — to complete the project within budget.
Now that the stage is complete, Hurley is excited about the potential.
“We have a venue now, where people can come for movies, or for concerts. The school is right across the field now. The school is going to use this for their productions.
“It is truly a community place where people can enjoy the arts of all kinds,” Hurley said. “Twenty people can use this, or 500,” she said. “It’s just another welcome addition to our community.”
Susan MacManus, a long-time supporter of the project, was at the party, too.
“There’s nothing like a community park to bring people together, neighbor to neighbor, business to business. It’s a good thing,” MacManus said.
Graves is thrilled by the project’s completion.
“It’s surreal. So many years, I toted that picture (of the potential stage) around,” Graves said.
The project exceeded her expectations, she said.
“It’s beautiful,” Graves said.
Now, she’s looking forward to schools using the stage for concerts and to the venue being used for other community events.
Anyone who wants to book the venue should get in touch with the parks department for information, Graves said.
Community and business partners
These people and organizations played a supporting role in bringing the Land O’ Lakes Community Stage project to life:
- Peter Gottschalk, architect
- Coastal Design Consultants, Paul Manuel
- Walbridge, Richard Marshall, Tim Sewell, Mary Layton
- DC Johnson & Associates Inc., Dan Johnson and Andy Getz
- Copperstone Executive Suites, Mary Lynn and Gary Gorsline
- Ervin Bishop Construction Inc., Sonny Bishop
- Schaer Development of Central Florida, Skip Schaer
- RIPA and Associates, Frank Ripa
- Quality Roofing Inc., Rick Jenkins
- JN Electric of Tampa Bay, John Narcisi
- PSI Investigation
- Driggers Engineering Services Inc.
- Lowe’s Home Improvement
- Accurate Signs on Time, Amy Daigrepont-Calkowski
Published July 12, 2017