Someday when the crowds gather to enjoy a school recital, or attend a concert, or watch a play — the stage at Land O’ Lakes Community Park will just be a fixture, a venue for events.
But last week, the yet-to-be built stage was the star of the show.
That’s when local politicians, community activists and interested residents gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking for the stage, which will be built on a grassy area west of the park’s fenced-in ball field.
The ceremony signaled the end of a quest for a stage that began decades ago.
The construction of the stage follows a $2.3 million project to breathe new life and expand amenities at Land O’ Lakes Community Park, 5401 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
Construction of the stage is expected to begin in October and to be completed by January.
The idea for a stage was nothing new, but funding for it was elusive.
Everything finally came together, in what Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore described as a “public, public, public, private, private, private, private, private, private partnership.”
By all accounts, it took a $250,000 grant from the state, the cooperation of local governments, the generosity of local partnerships and the involvement of community activists to make the vision a reality.
And, of course, there was Sandy Graves.
“I can tell you that this doesn’t exist but for Sandy Graves,” said Richard Corcoran, Speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives.
Corcoran helped secure the grant from the state’s Division of Cultural Affairs for the stage, but he credited Graves’ passion for making it happen.
“Sandy — she just dogged it, day in and day out,” Corcoran said. “The perseverance is something I’ve never seen.”
Corcoran said Graves told him: “I want to bring to my community something that’s great, something that’s beautiful, and where children can learn about arts and culture, and have this great asset to the community,” he said.
“I’m pretty conservative — but if there’s ever a project that belongs in a budget, it’s when it’s an individual who is fighting for something beautiful for her community. She doesn’t have a lobbyist. She doesn’t have power. She doesn’t have any of that stuff, but a heart, and a passion and a vision,” Corcoran said.
Graves, who declares herself a proud “Laker,” said anyone who has ever met her knows within a couple of minutes that she’s a native of Land O’ Lakes.
It’s a place that’s known for its community spirit, she said, pointing to the Land O’ Lakes Community Park as a prime example.
“It was built in the 1960s, after fish fries and donations, from loads of Lakers,” she said.
“This was before the county had a parks and recreation department, and before red tape was invented.
“So, in keeping with that tradition, Heritage Park (Foundation) was created,” she said.
The foundation has aimed to keep the park alive and has dreamed of adding a stage that could serve as a focal point for community events.
“Heritage Park Foundation has a motto: Building a better community by building a better community center,” she said.
The construction of the stage is the result of many, many people who have come together to help make it happen, Graves said. She named off dozens of people and organizations that have been involved through the years. She also remembered those who help carry the torch, but have since passed on.
“I want to thank the members of our organization (Heritage Park Foundation) that are not here today,” she said. “We hope they’re smiling down on us and saying, ‘Job well done.’”
Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent for Pasco County Schools, also took to the podium to thank the business partners who are either providing their services for free, or at cost, in order to bring the project in within budget.
The result will make a difference, said school board chairwoman Joanne Hurley, who recalled selling turkey legs at the Flapjack Festival years ago, to help raise money for a stage.
Hurley praised the partnerships that came together to make the vision a reality. She expects generations of people to enjoy events at the park.
The stage will be used for plays, recitals, concerts, pageants and other presentations, Moore said.
“This stage is actually going to be a cornerstone of future cultural events here in Land O’ Lakes,” Moore said.
The list of people, companies and organizations that had a hand in bringing the stage project to life at the Land O’ Lakes Community Park is long.
These are the people and organizations that got a mention during speakers’ remarks at the stage’s groundbreaking on Aug. 16:
- Members of the Heritage Park Foundation, especially Kurt Conover, Tim Hayes, Lee Cannon, John Mitchell and Joanne Hurley, and newer members Terri Dusek, Helen Rodriguez and Stefanie Bracciale. Also, members of the foundation who have passed way.
- Longtime supporters: The Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce, the GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, the past Land O’ Lakes Rotary, Lonnie and Bobby Piper, Susan MacManus, Hungry Harry’s, Keystone Community Church and the Candlewood Community Church
- School bands and choirs that performed in the park, with the hopes that one day there would be a stage to showcase their talent.
- Pasco County Schools
- Pasco County
- Pasco County Parks and Recreation
- Humberto Gonzalez, Rick Buckman, Brian Taylor, Mike Walcott and A.J. Fernandez
- Richard Corcoran, speaker-designate for the Florida House of Representatives
- Sandy Graves
- Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent of Pasco County Schools
- 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
- Door and Hardware Openings Inc., Mike Gonzalez
- Accurate Signs on Time, Amy Daigrepont-Calkowski
Published August 24, 2016