Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feld Entertainment as unique as its shows

Covering businesses throughout Southwest Florida for the past several years, I have toured my fair share of operations. Feld Entertainment was by far the most unique.

The four-acre Palmetto campus is a spectacle of organized chaos. Workers there produce the shows, which include the storied Ringing Bros. Circus and Disney On Ice, from the ground up. Everything is done in-house.

The 148-member team sews their own costumes. They weld their own sets and props. They maintain all of the train cars used for the global tours. They run an internal mail room for the traveling performers the size of a small post office. They even produce their own traveling ice-skating rinks, so when Disney On Ice arrives at an area in Beijing, the set-up crew has everything they need alongside.

Soon the company will be increasing its space tenfold, when it moves into a new 47-acre complex just a few miles down the road in Ellenton. My editor, Jennifer Rich, suggested the company open the doors to the public through guided tours when all is said and done (almost like Mardi Gras does in off season). Not a bad idea. My tour would have been well worth a $5 ticket.

The expansion will create 235 new jobs, as reported in my story today and in Tuesday's editions. What's caught the most local buzz about the move, however, is not the economic impact. It's the return of the circus winter quarters to Southwest Florida, opening the door for more local auditions and rehearsals.

The circus, which has roots in Sarasota dating back a century, moved its winter operations from Venice to Tampa in 1990. In about a year, Manatee will host all of those duties.

So grab some popcorn or cotton candy and watch the show unfold. Feld Entertainment has no plans of slowing down any time soon. And now, Manatee's seat just got a little closer.

For the latest business updates, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman

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