Can Bill Edwards turn Treasure Island into a concert destination?
Quietly, Pinellas County music magnate Bill Edwards has been working to turn the Treasure Island Yacht and Tennis Club into a serious concert destination, bringing acts like Jon Secada, All-4-One and the Commodores for performances and charity functions since mid-2009.
But he believes the club can get bigger.
"I'm trying to get more people to cross that bridge," Edwards said. "My goal is to bring more and more people in here, more and more tourists, more and more people from Tampa, from Seminole, from Sarasota."
On Tuesday, the club held a press conference to formally announce the scope of Edwards' involvement and a charitable partnership with All Children's Hospital. Edwards took the opportunity to name some upcoming headliners -- among them Wayne Brady, KC and the Sunshine Band, Lainie Kazan, Joe Piscopo, and Frankie Valli -- as well as the venue's new name: The Club at Treasure Island.
Thursday's gathering had been billed as a "major" event that would "transform" Treasure Island. Jon Secada and Cheap Trick's Robin Zander were there to show their support. And with Edwards, a music industry veteran and producer with deep pockets and a long list of famous pals, on board as club owner, president and CEO, it's worth asking:
Is the stately old Club at Treasure Island about to become Tampa Bay's first major beachside concert venue?
"If you go to Feinstein's in New York, or anyplace on the West Coast, you'll find places that are restaurants that have capacity for 200, 250 people," Edwards said. "Some of the major acts come there; they want to try their new material out.
"What we're trying to do is, if they're coming through, we're trying to catch them on the fly and say, 'Listen, you're going to Miami -- why don't you stop here along the way?'"
After checking out the club, we have some thoughts:
The pros: It's the only venue trying something like this on the south-to-mid-Pinellas beaches. The amenities (food, drinks, recreation) will no doubt be top-notch. Club members will get discounted tickets, but each show will also have seats available to the public -- and six times per year, all proceeds from the sale of general-public ticktes will go to All Children's. And with seating for about 220, it's a fairly intimate venue.
Zander said 220 seats probably wouldn't hold a Cheap Trick concert, but he's open to performing there. "If it were a question-and-answer situation, where we could play a couple of songs, where it was just Rick (Nielsen) and me, we couuld probably do it."
The cons: The shows are pretty clearly aimed at a crowd of moneyed retirees, so don't expect to see too many cutting-edge artists on the bill -- instead, think casino-style revues and lounge acts. The performance space is intimate, but somewhat makeshift -- it's essentially a banquet room with a temporary stage.
There were rumblings that the club may soon expand, possibly by adding a small theater or, in Edwards' words, a "world-class spa."
"I plan on taking this and building on to it," he said. "There's a lot of land here."
Edwards, who sold his stake in the new Jannus Live just weeks after it opened, said he's been encouraged by the turnout at the concerts he's staged thus far.
"New Year's Eve of last year, we covered the pool with glass, and we had a band out here. We had Jon Secada on the first level and the Commodores on the second level. We had Steinbrenner out here, and everybody danced on the pool."
This year's New Year's Eve headliner looks like KC and the Sunshine Band. For info on tickets, click here to contact the club.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*