Boca’s Mizner Park Amphitheater could get $100 million makeover

Boca’s Mizner Park Amphitheater could get $100 million makeover

BOCA RATON — One of Boca Raton’s most popular attractions could get a complete upgrade, including a new indoor performing arts center and six-story garage, among other improvements.

The Boca Raton Center for Arts and Innovation is in talks with the city, looking to infuse about $100 million to completely revamp the Mizner Park Amphitheater. The group is promising an economic boon for the city and nearby hotels, as well as putting the city on the map as a hub for national and international acts in the fine arts.

Mizner Park Amphitheatre, one of Boca Raton’s most popular attractions, could get a complete makeover, including a new indoor performing arts center, six-story garage and renovated amphitheater stage. The Boca Raton Center for Arts and Innovation is in talks with the city to work out details, but it is looking to infuse about $100 million, promising economic benefits for the city and nearby hotels, as well as transforming the city a hub for national and international acts in the fine arts. (IBI Group/Courtesy)

The project comes from ballerina-turned-real estate design engineer Andrea Virgin, a Boca Raton native and Florida Atlantic University graduate. She

Virgin wants Boca Raton to be a beacon of cultural arts in the region by upgrading the existing amphitheater and bringing a multi-use indoor venue that can host an array of events from musical and theatrical performances to art galleries to lectures and business events.

If successful, Virgin’s proposal would build a canopy over the amphitheater to allow events to be held in almost any weather, construction of a new “highly flexible” indoor event venue on the lot just east of the amphitheater, a rooftop terrace, 99-seat performance hall and an open-air lobby. She wants a hub for fine-arts events and performances in Boca Raton so residents don’t need to drive 20 or 30 miles to Fort Lauderdale, Miami or West Palm Beach.

Envisioning many events

The amphitheater is currently owned and operated by the city, which hosts events there and leases it out to other organizations to host events. If this deal goes through, the city would lease the venue to the organization for 99 years, under the condition that the city can continue to host some of its own events there.

In addition to being able to host concerts, performances and other events in the arts, Virgin said the venue will be ideal for academic and think- tank summits, fashion shows, career fairs, consumer product launches, political debates and more. Plans for the venue include retractable seating, to allow for a flat, level ground for walking, concert-style seating or other configurations.

“Anything that the imagination can come up with can be accommodated here,” she said.

Virgin anticipates a venue like this attracting tourism from around the world that has not yet traveled to Boca Raton, or done business with the city.

She projects a total economic impact of about $1.3 billion in the first five years. The influx of tourists from the world of both business and arts and culture and others would fill about 2.1 million hotel room nights over that same period and about 500,000 for each year after, she said.

Moving forward

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer called the plan “ambitious” and said he’s looking forward to seeing what sort of opportunities it would bring to the city, but he expressed concern that the venue could exclude the local community through cost- prohibitive events and programs. He said the venue would need to continue to host those free, family- friendly events.

“For me, that’s a must in any deal,” Singer said. “When council members said it was important to us, the group had agreed to making the venues available to us for city events. There are still so many details that need to be worked out.”

The amphitheater and adjacent lot, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosted a number of free events each year, such as food truck festivals and free yoga. It also has been home to a number of performances from symphony orchestras and ballets to rock bands and blues festivals.

“Whether it’s day or night, weekday or weekend, we want people to be able to come here whether it’s for an event or not,” Virgin said. “There’s going to be a lot of focus on accessibility because the arts has this misconception of being elitist and exclusionary […] and that’s no way of growing the art form.”

The exploratory group is looking for local philanthropists, partner organizations, corporations and other donors to raise the necessary funds.

It estimates about $100 million in capital costs such as construction, and another $20 million for an endowment and reserve. They have raised just over $1.5 million so far to go toward those soft costs, Virgin said.

The group comprises a seven-person board of directors led by Virgin and an advisory board, consisting of representatives from the Boca Raton Resort and Club, Boca Ballet Theatre, Mizner Park Cultural Center, Boca Raton Museum of Art and other organizations. The DeVos Institute of Arts Management is serving as a business and planning consultant.

The group will meet with city staff on Feb. 8 at the City Council’s workshop to discuss more details. Construction isn’t projected to begin until fall 2022. The group hopes to finish construction in 2025, during the city’s 100-year anniversary, and predicts an official opening date the following year.