Retreat puts council in a rockin’ state of mind

Attracting bigger and better rock and roll bands to play at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center is a top priority for the City Council in the upcoming year.

“We’re prepared – based on research and funding and putting partnerships together – to launch a concert series in 2020,” Civic Center Director Linda McCarthy told the council during a recent planning retreat.

Classic rock bands from the 1970s and 1980s – such as the B-52s, Styx and the Marshall Tucker Band – draw well on the Treasure Coast and could be booked to play at the Civic Center, McCarthy said. The city will have to allow beer sales at the concerts because that’s the biggest money maker, McCarthy said. A city survey shows residents want a classic rock concert series at the City Centers.

“We’re trying to generate revenue and also answer the citizens survey,” McCarthy said. “We have to develop the market and we have to develop the relationship with these promoters.”

The City Council spends more than $2 million per year to subsidize operations at the City Center and wants to cut that in half.

Providing more opportunities for city residents to have fun in the form of arts, culture, recreation, entertainment, dining and shopping emerged as a major new goal last month during a council planning session.

The council wants to step up its efforts at major facilities like the Civic Center and Riverwalk, while undertaking new initiatives like an entertainment district in Tradition Commerce Center and a bike and skate adventure park in St. Lucie West.

Surveys of city residents show “they want more fun things to do,” said Mayor Greg Oravec.

The fun initiative starts with more planning, the council decided.

“Why don’t you … upgrade it and say, ‘We’re going to do a culture, arts and entertainment master plan,’” Oravec told city administrators. “We know we need to have fun, we know we need more activities for our residents, so we’re going to think about it in a strategic way.”

A consultant is already working with parks officials in drafting a 10-year Parks Master Plan that will be presented to the council in July.

A bike and skate adventure park for teenagers on a 40-acre tract on Cameo Boulevard is part of the plan.

The council also discussed creating a Public Art Master Plan and updating the Riverwalk District Master Plan.

A 10-acre site on Westmoreland Boulevard near the Botanical Gardens is being developed into a destination park with the Riverwalk Boardwalk extension, a waterfront restaurant, a historic village, a finely designed playground, a kayak launch and boat docks.

Another stretch of boardwalk will be built beneath Port St. Lucie Boulevard in 2020 to link with the Riverwalk in Veterans Memorial Park.

Oravec suggested a long-term plan to link the Riverwalk to the riverfront park planned beneath the Crosstown Parkway Bridge.

Oravec also suggested the council consider using $1.2 million from the city’s conservation fund toward the purchase of the 2,000-acre Mable Grove just west of the city’s 5,100-acre McCarty Ranch.

The city uses the ranch property on Rangeline Road at the city’s far western edge for utilities, conservation and recreation, including primitive camp sites and hiking, bicycling, kayaking and fishing.

Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo said the McCarty Ranch could host an event like the Okeechobee Music Festival held the past three years at the Sunshine Grove.

“Programming I think is key,” Caraballo said. “Now you have an actual event that might draw people here.”

Port St. Lucie City Center Director Linda McCarthy said the following bands could be booked for the quarterly concert series: B-52s, Bachman Turner Overdrive, REO Speedwagon, Rick Springfield, Styx, the Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band, Loverboy, Little River Band, Kiefer Southerland, Jefferson Starship, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Grand Funk Railroad, Foghat and Eddie Money.

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