Center board makes plans for the future

Center board update awning
Board member Mike Thrasher presented a rough sketch of what he hopes the entrance to The Center of Anna Maria Island will look like if Anna Maria city leaders approve the addition of an awning covering the walkway to the front door. - Submitted | Mike Thrasher

ANNA MARIA – Changes are coming to The Center of Anna Maria with the hopes of drawing more community members back to the nonprofit’s campus.

One of the most visible changes, if approved by Anna Maria City Commissioners, would be the addition of a covered area at the front of the building. The proposed metal awning would cover the walkway from the west parking area and the main entrance. Board member Mike Thrasher, who designed the concept for the awning, said if approved, the steel and canopy structure will not take up any of The Center’s parking.

After being told that people find the entrance to The Center “unattractive and uninviting,” Thrasher said he created a “scribble that turned into a plan” with the design for the awning. He suggested the space also could be used for events.

Before the awning structure can be built it must first be approved by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board before going to commissioners because it would be partially located within required setbacks.

Thrasher and board Chair David Zaccagnino said they want to find out if the plan is feasible before moving forward with getting quotes or seeking out local businesses to volunteer materials and labor.

“The object is to make it look more inviting to come in,” Zaccagnino said of the project.

For a list of already-planned capital improvement projects including roofing repair, field maintenance, plumbing for two bathrooms and the purchase of exercise equipment, Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously May 22 to honor a request from the three Island cities to donate $100,000 from the county-managed excess concession fund. County commissioners also granted a transportation request from The Center board by donating up to an additional $22,500 from the concession funds for the purchase of a new van for the nonprofit.

New Executive Director Chris Culhane said he’s very thankful for the support from the local and county governments.

Board treasurer Christine Hicks said The Center fell $25,000 short in April, closing out the month with a $14,635 loss for the fiscal year to date. She estimates the organization will close out the fiscal year at the end of June $5,141 in the black. Zaccagnino said ending the year $5,141 in a positive position would show significant progress from the -$171,000 closing of the 2016-17 fiscal year. Hicks said so far this year The Center’s finances are within 2 percent of meeting budget and 35 percent over this time last year.

To help bring in more people and raise money for The Center, board member Karen Harllee said several events are already in the works for the coming fiscal year. The planned events include the annual Murder Mystery, bowling tournament, Lester Family Fun Day, golf tournament and the Tour of Homes. A new event making its debut in 2019 is a fashion show.

Harllee said a search is ongoing for volunteers and committee members to help plan and orchestrate the community and fundraising events. Anyone who would like to volunteer can email

“We’re planning a year in advance versus one month in advance,” she said.

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