| Fort Myers Information-Press
For 27 years, Harborside Occasion Heart was residence to concert events, conventions, cat exhibits and even a tattoo pageant. Then the downtown Fort Myers venue closed for intensive renovations.
Two years later, Harborside is scheduled to reopen this September. And its first occasion is already on the books: the annual Fort Myers House and Backyard Present.
Simply don’t name the place Harborside.
The 40,000-square-foot venue has new homeowners and a brand new identify: Caloosa Sound Conference Heart & Amphitheater. However that identify may take some time to stay.
At the very least one occasion organizer admits he nonetheless defaults to the previous identify — at the least for now.
“It’ll take some time to get used to the brand new identify,” mentioned Invoice Anderson, organizer of the annual residence and backyard present. “I at all times consider it as Harborside Occasion Heart, however Caloosa Sound is an efficient new identify. And it’s a great new model for downtown.
“Something that’s new and invigorating is simply going to assist downtown Fort Myers.”
There’s nonetheless a whole lot of work to be carried out between now and the opening of the conference middle and its new residence: the $92 million Luminary Lodge throughout from Centennial Park.
Throughout a current tour of the venue, The Information-Press discovered the place bustling with noisy exercise: Rumbling bulldozers on Edwards Drive and Monroe Road. Energy drills whirring. Cement pouring. Workers portray.
However rather a lot’s already been completed on the venue and its 30,000-square-foot ballroom, mentioned Luminary Lodge & Co. basic supervisor Bob Megazzini.
That features new lights and drywall, a refurbished sound system, larger loos, re-skinned flooring and a brand new entrance on the constructing’s east finish. Then there’s the primary ballroom, which could be divided into as many as 5 rooms to accommodate smaller occasions.
“This place was needing a refreshment,” Megazzini mentioned.
The venue’s new black-and-white coloration scheme are a giant enchancment over its earlier pinks and greens, mentioned Rhonda Decherd, the resort’s director of catering and conventions.
“Every part’s impartial,” mentioned Decherd, who labored at Harborside from 2005 to 2011. “So if you’re coming in right here for an occasion or a ball, it’s going to mix, color-wise, rather a lot nicer.”
Work crews nonetheless want to complete the streets and sidewalks outdoors. And contained in the constructing, they’ve to put in acoustical panels, carpeting and lighting fixtures on the partitions, amongst different issues.
Then, after all, there’s the “amphitheater” a part of the venue’s identify. However that may come later — most probably early subsequent yr, Megazzini mentioned.
Positioned throughout Edwards Drive in Centennial Park, the amphitheater will embrace a stage and bandshell, together with a garden that may maintain about 3,000 individuals. It’s nonetheless within the design section, although, and Fort Myers Metropolis Council would wish to approve it, Megazzini mentioned.
He sees the amphitheater as a house to concert events and different downtown Fort Myers occasions such because the month-to-month Music Stroll and the annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest.
Most concert events will probably default to the amphitheater as a substitute of the conference middle’s banquet corridor, he mentioned. “That’s the place we see the live performance occasion venue being. … I feel individuals would slightly be out below the solar anyway.”
Development may begin on the amphitheater by October or November, Megazzini mentioned. Then the venture will probably take 4 to 6 months to finish. “It shouldn’t be too lengthy,” he added.
In the meantime, Megazzini has the conference middle to open on Sept. 17, adopted by the Fort Myers House and Backyard Present that weekend.
Many extra occasions are already scheduled, together with weddings, conventions and the annual Fort Myers Boat Present (Nov. 12-15). However a few of these haven’t been made public but by their organizers, Megazzini mentioned.
“We’ve got associations coming in,” he mentioned. “We’ve got company teams. We’ve got native teams. We’ve got a bit of little bit of every little thing happening the primary couple of months.”
Different public occasions will probably be introduced after the place opens, Decherd mentioned. That would doubtlessly embrace Harborside mainstays just like the Edison Pageant of Mild, the Golden Apple banquet and the Arts for ACT public sale — all displaced by the venue’s renovation.
The 12-story, 243-room Luminary Lodge and its adjoining conference middle overlook the Caloosahatchee River, which why the venue was renamed Caloosa Sound.
“Caloosa Sound has a pleasant catch to it,” Megazzini mentioned in January when the resort introduced the brand new identify. “We’re right here on the river. When you consider sound, it is greater than water — sound is music.”
Different leisure choices on the resort will embrace a culinary theater that may host wine tastings, chef competitions and different food-related occasions; plus a rooftop bar and pool deck that may maintain 200 individuals, Decherd says. Each are anticipated to open together with the remainder of the resort on Sept. 17 —though the bar received’t open if Florida’s COVID-19 restrictions stay in impact, Megazzini mentioned.
The Metropolis of Fort Myers beforehand managed the venue, which opened in 1991. Now Caloosa Sound and the resort are being run as a part of a public-private partnership between town of Fort Myers and Mainsail Improvement of Tampa. The developer has a 99-year lease on the property.
Invoice Anderson of the Fort Myers House & Backyard Present appears to be like ahead to being the primary public occasion within the renovated venue. It’s becoming, he mentioned: His present was additionally the primary occasion at Harborside when it opened in 1991.
“We have been the primary tenant to maneuver into Harborside,” mentioned Anderson, president of occasion organizers Expo Administration. “We’ve had profitable exhibits there for lots of years.”
Now he’s enthusiastic about Caloosa Sound and what it means for each his occasion and downtown Fort Myers.
“Harborside has been a landmark for Fort Myers for a very long time,” he mentioned. “After which it went away for two ½ or 3 years. So we’re anxious to be again in there.
“I used to be there about 4 months in the past, and I may see that the allure was going to return again.”
Join with this reporter: Charles Runnells (Fb), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), @crunnells1 (Instagram)