Projects like the construction of the new Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Centre are helping to create a thriving arts community in Orlando, Ron Legler says. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
ORLANDO – For Ron Legler, a deal is a deal.
Over the years, Legler said, the city of Orlando has been quite supportive of the arts community, and in particular the organization that Legler is the president and CEO of, the Florida Theatrical Association.
The non-profit presenter of Broadway in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami was founded to educate and develop new theater audiences, while also preserving the presentation of touring Broadway Theater. With headquarters in Orlando, Florida Theatrical Association is about to begin its new season with the opening tonight of Disney’s musical “Beauty and the Beast” at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.
“They are one of our great partners at the Bob Carr Centre,” said Allen Johnson, executive director of Orlando Venues. “We’ve partnered with them for over 20 years.”
On Monday, Legler showed his appreciation when he presented a check for $142,000 to Mayor Buddy Dyer during the City Commission meeting at City Hall. It was, Legler said, a donation to the city from the 2011-2012 Fairwinds-Orlando Broadway Season – a sign of just how thriving the Florida Theatrical Association’s work has been in recent years.
The check, Legler said, represents “one-third of the profit for the recent season of Broadway in Orlando,” and at the same time, he added, is intended to show that the city’s support for and faith in Florida Theatrical Association has paid off handsomely.
“In the city’s 24 year agreement with us, they have never lost $1 in Broadway in Orlando,” Legler said.
In fact, over those two decades, he added, Florida Theatrical Association has built up an audience of more than 8,500 patrons – a base that has allowed the association to raise and invest $5 million in creating Eola Square, a project that transformed a neighborhood in downtown Orlando that at the height of the recession was made up mostly of empty condo buildings.
Located between Church and Pine Streets, the property around 100 S. Eola Drive in Thorton Park now offers dining, nightlife, and a community theater, The Abbey.
“It is now packed with over 13 new businesses, and Eola Square has become a thriving area,” Legler said.
The Mezz, Nick’s Italian Kitchen, Mucho Liquors and the Prickly Pear are among the options for the area’s visitors.
The area got revitalized, Legler said, because the association was “offering a risk-free rent strategy” that pulled in new tenants.
“These were much-needed community spaces,” he said.
At the same time, Legler said the association welcomes another major arts project in Orlando, the ongoing construction of the new Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Centre across the street from City Hall, which the city hopes will become a destination for world-class entertainment when it opens next year.
“We are so excited to see the fantastic progress in the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Centre,” Legler said.
Dyer said he was pleased to encourage and support all that the arts do for the city.
“The not-for-profit arts industry also strengthens our economy by $130 million in economic activity annually,” the mayor said.
“Beauty and the Beast” opens tonight at the Bob Carr at 8 p.m., and runs through Oct. 7. To purchase tickets, log on to

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