BROOKSVILLE — In the late 1970s and early '80s, Brooksville Elks Lodge 2852 boasted about 1,600 members.
To accommodate large crowds, the lodge built a 17,000-square-foot facility that has been a landmark on Cortez Boulevard for more than three decades.
Like many fraternal organizations, however, the lodge has seen a decline in its aging membership over the years.
It currently counts about 500 members, exalted ruler Tony Davidson said, some 300 of them active, "depending on the time of year and the event."
Davidson said the building on Cortez west of Brooksville "has outgrown us," so later this month the Elks will downsize.
The lodge has sold its longtime home to Great Life Church and has purchased a more appropriately sized building on County Line Road, the current home of the Suncoast Dance and Party Center, formerly the SNPJ Lodge.
The party center building, at 8,000 square feet, will cost less to maintain and allow for more efficient operations, Davidson said.
"The Elks run on a volunteer basis," he said. "As volunteers get older and some die, it's hard on the volunteers. We've got members in their 70s and 80s."
The last event at the current lodge will be an aloha luau Aug. 9. The event will be open to the public, and the lodge will seek to sign up new members.
"We'll run a drive to attract people in their 40s and 50s with a $1 application fee that night," said Davidson, 51.
The regular application fee is $25. Member dues are $68.25 a year. Requirements for membership include U.S. citizenship, no felony record, a belief in God and age 21 or older.
He said the Elks will operate their new lodge "the same as we're doing — renting out, serving our food and alcohol. Our liquor license will be transferred."
Rental fees at the new facility for the remainder of this year will remain the same as under current ownership. Already, the Elks have lined up rentals for 40 events after they take possession Aug. 29.
Some improvements will be made to the County Line building, primarily kitchen expansion. Furnishings from the current lodge will be moved, including the elk sculpture that fronts the property.
The lodge staff will be reduced from five to three.
The Suncoast Dance and Party Center, a nonprofit corporation, has leased the building and 7-acre site from the SNPJ Lodge since 2012, said the corporation's treasurer, Ed Klasa.
"We will continue as a club and will hold our functions there. It'll be business for us as usual, in the same place," Klasa said.
The Slovenia-American Club and various ethnic and cultural clubs are expected to continue to meet and hold functions there, he said.
Great Life Church currently is located on Sunshine Grove Road, west of Brooksville. Davidson did not disclose the sale price of the building on Cortez to the church, but said money is in escrow to complete the transaction.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Brooksville Elks Lodge 2852 will have an aloha luau, open to the public, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9. Member dues are $68.25, and the requirements for membership include U.S. citizenship, no felony record, a belief in God and age 21 or older. The date of the luau and membership information was wrong in a story published Friday. Incorrect information was provided to the Times.