About CPPACview all shows
The City of Largo’s cultural arts programming began in 1979, when federal monies enabled the Recreation and Parks Department to hire 12 young artists as part of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program. A year later, the City Commission approved funding for the Cultural Arts Division. Offerings included community theater, music, art and dance for children, adults, and seniors. The Division came to a crossroads in 1988 when fire destroyed the Largo Community Center, home to many of its artistic programs. After two years of making do with temporary facilities, a rebuilt auditorium opened in 1990. Unfortunately, the city was not able to replace the sound system and seating risers. These deficiencies, as well as eventual contributions for a new theater in Largo Central Park, gave new life to the dreams of Largo citizens of a fully equipped theater.
Major funding for the development of a performing arts center for the City was received throughout the early 90s through various campaigns attracting local businesses, private donations, and grants, as the design of the proposed 12,000 sq. ft. community Theatre in the Park increased to a 24,000 sq. ft. Cultural Center. The new facility would include a 333-seat theater and a four-section multiuse community room.
The first contributor was Largo resident Marion Tonne, who contributed $600,000 in 1991. Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs were received in 1994 and 1995. During this time, a professional fund-raiser was contracted to direct the community capital campaign which raised over $600,000 through major sponsorships of $5,000 or more, a chair sales campaign of either $500 or $1,000 and a star sales campaign where individuals could purchase a “star” for $100 or $50 to be installed in the lobby of the soon to be built Center .
In April of 1995, a ground-breaking ceremony for the Largo Cultural Center was held as part of the grand opening celebration for Largo Central Park. “Hard Hat Tours” were given during construction by volunteers Joe and Betty Laing as a preview of the available spaces.
Largo’s new Cultural Center opened on November 1 and 2 of 1996, with two black-tie events honoring the donors of the various campaigns held to fund construction. A liquor license was acquired prior to opening, allowing the Center to host a wider variety of functions while earning additional revenue.
The Historic Largo Feed Store, moved from its original location to Largo Central Park in 1992, opened to the public on May 16, 1998 after undergoing restoration through the assistance of the Largo Historical Society and a State of Florida Historical Preservations Grant the year prior. Due to its proximity to the Largo Cultural Center, management and oversight of the historic building was given to the Cultural Center.
In 1998, Angels for the Arts was formed at the request of the then-director of the Park and Recreation Director as an organization to support and promote the new Center. It merged with the dormant Partners ‘N Progress soon after to form one 501(c)(3) organization named Partners ‘N Progress for the Arts, with the simple goal of advancing the arts in mid-Pinellas county and making them accessible to everyone. Both boards joined together under one president, Margaret Coupe. The first annual fundraising drive was initiated in September 1999.
The year 2000 brought many crucial advancements to the Cultural Center. The addition of a Development Specialist created a new direction for the involvement and support of its non-profit organization. This new arrangement allowed for an important partnership with the Pinellas County School System to offer a summer youth drama program to area children. In the same year, the Cultural Center became its own division within the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, and the Historic Largo Feed Store, fast becoming a signature space for rent, was approved for its own liquor license which allowed alcohol to be served at private events.
Several major renovations were accomplished the following year including new desks, counter tops, and computer monitors in the box office, as well as the conversion of a storage room into additional office space. As the Cultural Center expanded, it received an endowment of $100,000 with a challenge to the City to match the amount by the end of the year. Staff endeavored to raise a total of $360,000 however, in order to be eligible for a Florida Cultural Endowment Program match of $240,000 to make the total Cultural Center endowment $600,000. These funds were sorely needed as requests from the City for the Cultural Center to become more self-reliant were quickly mounting.
An exciting change for the Cultural Center came in 2003 with the adoption of a more modern computerized ticketing system. This new service replaced the large wooden display box with paper tickets for each performance laid out by seat. The rest of the decade saw some much-needed renovations and improvements including: landscaping at the Feed Store with the installation of a small water fountain and citrus grove restoration; new carpeting in the lobby and dressing rooms; and new tables and chairs for the Parkview Room.
Some new promotional and development endeavors were undertaken throughout the decade as well. In January of 2005, a television program titled “Arts Beat” was initiated on a local public access channel to feature cultural programming at the Cultural Center. Later that year, a three-day music festival called the Largo Music Fest was launched featuring national headlining acts such as Lee Greenwood, Don McLean, Survivor, Three Dog Night and the Florida Orchestra. The festival was held in the mid-section of Largo Central Park, the site of the former Renaissance Festival. The festival drew thousands promoting the Cultural Center to larger audiences than ever.
With the ongoing success and expanding demand for even more programming, staffing at the Cultural Center was restructured in 2009 to include a new Business Manager and new Artistic Supervisor. The new positions helped to reposition finances and revenue goals following the recession in 2008.
The Center underwent several major updates in FY10. In the Tonne Playhouse, 66 movable seats were added to the top of the orchestra pit cap to increase attendance and revenue, ushering in an era of presenting entertainment with the ability to generate more revenue and increase artist fees for top-name talent. To help facilitate this new change, the ticketing system was enhanced to provide Internet purchasing capabilities. A video projection system was also installed, and chillers in the kitchens were replaced to help enhance available amenities to potential renters. At the Historic Largo Feed Store, all original wooden flooring except for an 8’x10’ section at the entry was replaced for sustainability and safety.
A special concert was put together for the Cultural Center’s 15th Anniversary, where a Beatles tribute band performed on top of the Parkview Room overlooking Largo Central Park as guests in the park enjoyed refreshments from food trucks. In the years following, the Center had several outdoor cosmetic improvements including new fencing on the Parkview Room portico, new exterior building signs, and new LED lighting. In 2014 & 2015, other major updates included new flooring and window treatments in the Parkview Room and new lobby furniture which was financed by the Suncoast Performing Arts Foundation. In addition, the lobby was remodeled with new carpeting, walls and the center had the roof replaced.
FY16 proved to be another landmark year for the Center. To better reflect programming and physical location, the Suncoast Performing Arts Foundation along with City Commission agreed to pursue a name change from the Largo Cultural Center to the Central Park Performing Arts Center. The new name was officially announced in the following season’s brochure along with a new logo and color scheme.
In addition to a new name, the facility itself underwent several upgrades: the Parkview Room’s ceiling was replaced and lighting upgraded; lobby restrooms were refreshed with new partitions and counter tops; badge readers were installed and security cameras were added to the interior and exterior of the building to enhance security; and a new state of the art line-array sound system was installed in the Tonne Playhouse to improve sound coverage and quality, and to maintain industry standards for national touring artists.
Building on the momentum of its new name, a new website was launched for the Central Park Performing Arts Center (CPPAC) in 2018 to further modernize its brand and transition away from its prior feel as only a government facility. In solidarity, the Suncoast Performing Arts Foundation voted to change its name as well to the Central Park Performing Arts Foundation, better aligning the focus of who they represent in fundraising efforts.
The Tonne Playhouse received several upgrades during 2018 including renovated green rooms and dressing rooms (with new paint, carpeting, and furniture), as well as a new orchestra pit cover to provide more usable space and increase safety. The building itself also received upgrades to its exterior, with all-new, Florida-friendly landscaping around the Center and Feed Store.
Now a prominent performing arts center in Pinellas, CPPAC’s budget was expanded in 2019 to allow for hiring artists with higher fees as well as to purchase several major pieces of technical equipment to contend with larger facilities in the area. The new technical features would allow CPPAC to better align with industry standards and enhance its audiences’ experience. Some of the new features included: a new stage lighting package; backline equipment; a digital audio monitor console; and a new assistive listening device system. CPPAC van was budgeted to be replaced and the new 15- passenger van is more suitable to transport cargo, and to help facilitate travel for performers.
Enhancements were also made outside during these years to increase beautification and functionality of CPPAC’s rental spaces, including a new pergola over the brick patio at the Feed Store and a new brick 2,000 sq ft terrace in front of the Parkview Room’s portico. Two new LED signs were also installed, one at the corner of East Bay Drive and Missouri Avenue and another attached to the building facing Central Park Drive, to aid in promoting CPPAC and its programs.