Thumbs up to the fact that Downtown has become the entertainment hub for our region — thanks in large part to the high quality of its venues.
For instance, VenuesNow ranks the classic Florida Theatre as the No. 1 “top stop” in Florida for venues with a capacity of 2,000 or fewer seats. This is a huge compliment coming from a global trade publication that covers live entertainment venues.
The ranking was based on attendance between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019; during that period the Florida Theatre drew 115,910 attendees, easily outdistancing other similar-sized venues in the state.
Meanwhile, Daily’s Place was No. 1 in the state’s 5,000 to 10,000 category with 105,324 attendees. And VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena was No. 1 in the 15,000 to 30,000 category with 87,769 attendees.
When Daily’s Place opened in May 2017 many wondered if it would ultimately hurt the Florida Theatre's attendance.
But Numa Saisselin, president of the Florida Theatre, took a positive attitude at the time. That's a big reason why the Florida Theatre has continued to keep on rockin' — along with, of course, the venue's historic, eye-catching beauty and its first-class customer service.
And now the Florida Theatre is in line for upgrades thanks to a city contribution paired with matching funds from the venue.
Saisselin told the JAX Chamber that earning the No. 1 ranking from VenuesNow was a significant accomplishment for the Florida Theatre.
“If you are a performing artist selling 1,000 to 2,000 tickets and you’re touring south on I-95," Saisselin said, "you want your agent to get you a date at the Florida Theatre because it’s the No. 1 stop in Florida in its category."
And Saisselin said it was great news that Daily's Place and the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena also drew top rankings.
"The bigger picture for our city is that Jacksonville has three of the No. 1 venues in the six categories," Saisselin said, "and ... that helps Jacksonville.”
Throw in the fact that TIAA Bank Field was No. 43 in the over 30,000 category, and it's clear that Downtown has a wealth of top entertainment venues.
Groundwork Jacksonville makes an impact
The restoration of McCoys Creek received more good news recently when a $357,000 grant was issued by NOAA. It will help Groundwork Jacksonville complete design work on changes to the creek’s eastern end that flows into the St. Johns River.
Groundwork Jacksonville is a nonprofit that has pushed for urban trails and creek restoration in Downtown areas.
Previously Groundwork Jacksonville had received a $250,000 grant from NOAA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to work on the western branches of McCoys Creek.
And the city has budgeted about $60 million over a three-year period to restore the creek.
McCoys Creek currently empties into the St. Johns River under the former Times-Union building; eventually the entire expanse of the creek will be open to recreational and entertainment activities.
So Thumbs up to Groundwork Jacksonville for leading the way and securing the federal money to revive and restore McCoys Creek.
A leader for the Garden Club
The Times-Union has long surveyed its readers to find their most popular activities, and gardening has always been a perennial favorite.
So Thumbs up to the Garden Club of Jacksonville for hiring Denise Reagan as the first executive director in the organization's wonderful 97-year history.
Since leaving the Times-Union — where she was a talented, creative and energetic photo editor — Reagan has been active working in public relations, as well as in the nonprofit community.
The Garden Club couldn’t have made a better choice for the position.