The Southwest Florida Event Center had brought mainstream acts to Bonita Springs for several years.
BONITA SPRINGS — The coronavirus pandemic has claimed another business victim: the Southwest Florida Event Center.
Jennifer and Richard Shanahan, the owners of the facility — which had hosted concerts from Melissa Etheridge to Amy Grant to Toad the Wet Sprocket, among dozens of other acts — announced the permanent closing in a May 6 email and social media post.
“The last 60 days have been difficult to be away from the hustle of the concert and event business,” the owners wrote. “Considerable time has been spent evaluating the challenges of the industry moving into 2021, gauging what is going to be safest for the patron and artist alike. While social distancing for audience members may seem feasible, the logistics of putting on a concert will be tricky for the artists. There are so many facets and so many unknowns that we have made the difficult decision to cease operations."
Originally called the Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center, the facility opened in 2016. Area entrepreneur Brien Spina, at the time said he spent at least at least $7 million to turn the former Eckerd drug store into a concert and events hall. The 27,000-sqaure-foot space now holds some 900 people in the main theatre. The Shanahans took over ownership in 2017 and have since built it into major concert hub, competing with the likes of the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers and Artis-Naples for a variety of performers.
“We got into this business by circumstance but stayed in it by choice and with passion,” the Shanahans say in their letter. “Although our goals were lofty, we succeeded in building a successful event center ahead of industry standard. It has been a thrill to develop a loyal audience who welcomed some of the top touring artists into our community and hosted their special events in our spaces.”