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Since the Tampa Theater opened its doors in 1926, it has been a Tampa institution and icon. The Tampa Theater website sums it up best by saying, “Tampa Theatre is a passionately protected landmark and one of America’s best-preserved examples of grand movie palace architecture.” This is the precise reason why Tampa attorney Kevin Napper, of law firm Carlton Fields, pledged his support to the theater for years.
Kevin Napper is an ardent supporter of film and the arts, so his involvement with the Tampa Theater is naturally symbiotic. Much like his support of and work with WMNF, Kevin quite enjoys giving back to his community. He thinks that the Tampa Theater serves a special purpose in the community, in a variety of ways. “Something like 60,000 school kids go to the theater every year on field trips in one form or another. They go for musical performances, for lectures, for puppet shows, for musical acts. And it also serves as, I think, an important bridge, sort of an historical bridge between Old Tampa and New Tampa,” says Napper. The theater’s cultural and artistic significance isn’t lost on him either.
It was the first air conditioned theater in the South. It’s been continuously operating since 1926. They don’t make them like that anymore. John Eberson who was the architect that designed it, also designed the Gusman Theater in Miami Beach, which is another historical theater.” Mr. Napper’s appreciation of the theater grew so much, that he eventually joined the board of directors, later becoming the chairman of the board for 3 years (1999-2002).
“I was on the board for 6 years at least; maybe 8 in four two year terms. It’s a great historic theater. It’s on the national register of historic places. It’s the Tampa city landmark.” Kevin continues discussing his fondness of the theater, noting, “I have been there a lot for concerts and movies. My wife and I both like films, we go to a lot of films there, and I just really liked it.” Eventually his patronage of the theater got noticed.
“The former board chair…knew that I liked the theater and they had a board opening coming up, and asked if I was interested on applying. I did. I got appointed to the board…just sort of worked my way up. Attended monthly board meetings, and we started a capital campaign during that time. We started a number of things when I was on the board including the largest annual fundraising activity they have.” Kevin helped the theater immensely by working through the complex real estate challenges facing it.
“We were able to consolidate some of the real estate through the city and the theater.” The real estate consolidation led to a “… partnership with the county, the city, a private foundation, and the state. And we get funding from the feds, the state, the city, and the county, so it was very complicated; a lot of moving parts, and very unmanageable arrangement in terms of budgetary concerns,” says Napper. He concludes saying, “It’s a very difficult financial arrangement, and it’s very difficult to manage and to keep all the parts moving. You have a 100 year old building that needs a lot of expensive maintenance, that the city is primarily responsible for maintenance and upkeep but a little bit of the county is responsible, and a little bit of the state, and you get a little bit of funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s a difficult situation.” Nevertheless, you can tell that despite the challenges and hard work, Kevin’s tireless support and passion for the theater never wanes.
About Kevin Napper
Kevin J. Napper is one of Carlton Fields’ top attorneys. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law, Mr. Napper has been practicing for over 28 years, and he has successfully represented executives in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations involving allegations of bribery of foreign government officials. He has also successfully represented executives involved in federal grand jury investigations into a range of allegations, including violations of criminal antitrust law and the Food and Drug Act. Kevin Napper is widely recognized as a leading expert in the field of white collar defense.