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Clay County to consider building a Southern Rock museum

By Lee Wardlaw
Posted 6/15/23

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A packed room at the Clay County Administration hosted three unique subcommittee meetings Tuesday – Film Development, Grants, and a new Southern Rock Initiative.

Kimberly …

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Clay County to consider building a Southern Rock museum


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A packed room at the Clay County Administration hosted three unique subcommittee meetings Tuesday – Film Development, Grants, and a new Southern Rock Initiative.

Kimberly Morgan, Clay County Director of Tourism and Development, led the meetings throughout the morning alongside a group of dedicated residents serving on each committee.

The Southern Rock Initiative garnered the most interest of all three meetings.

That entire subcommittee discussed developing a Southern Rock Hall of Fame, Boutique Amphitheater and Gala Venue in the county. 

Commissioner Mike Cella and Sandy Keller, an Orange Park resident who was a Global Operations Manager for a company in Charlotte from 2017-2020, were at the meeting. After the pandemic hit, Keller shifted course, going to school as a music industry business student and serving as a project intern from January to April this year as a project intern on researching the viability of creating a Southern Rock Hall of Fame and Museum in the county. 

All had several valuable ideas to share, and there were plenty of details to hash out, including an operating model and venue location.

Several options existed for how the facility could be operated, including by the county, privately, or via a public-private partnership. One blueprint for a successful model is the Museum at Capricorn in Macon, Georgia, at Mercer University, which exists via funding from two to three private investors and a partnership with the school while also existing on a property where a municipal auditorium exists.

At the end of the meeting, the group agreed on a couple of deliverables, including putting together a draft Request For Quote, which would be vetted by the county’s legal and purchasing staff and would give requirements and information. A draft score would be sent to committee members.

A project could include a number of amenities, such as a cafe and gift shop, visitor and welcome center, art council, performance stage, in-house house kitchen and a gallery. Hosting historic tours, private events, and a Southern Rock festival could all be in the mix between the multi-use facility, which would include a Hall of Fame Museum, Boutique Outdoor Amphitheater and more.

It could be significant for Clay County if completed. Some would even say “big leauge.”

“It’s our Jaguar Stadium, essentially,” one subcommittee member said during the meeting.

A sample timeline for 2023-24 was presented, which could include a kick-off fundraiser and other elements. Still, a project is expected to take approximately three to five years to build.

Somewhere on the banks of St. Johns River or in Green Cove Springs were among desirable locations suggested among subcommittee members, along with bestbet Orange Park, the Orange Park Mall, St. Johns River State College’s Thrasher-Horne Center, the County Fairgrounds and the Regional Park and Reynolds Park, all which were listed on the agenda.

During the Film Development meeting, Morgan and her counterparts discussed building a database of filming locations, which she identified as a top priority moving forward.

“Right now, we have one, but it’s cumbersome, and it’s hard to find, and it still needs to be updated,” Morgan said.

She said that database currently only exists on the software tool the state uses. 

Moving forward, Morgan plans to update that one and create another new one that is “just easier to work with.”

This database would include film site locations, restaurants, and housing and hotel accommodations.

Film sites could include places at beautiful Clay County locations like scenic highways, canopy roads and more.

The subcommittee will also create an internship, with a job description to fully finalized by the end of July in time for the beginning of the 2023-24 school year on Aug. 10. It should provide a great opportunity for a high school student looking to build their resume, who would film a list of 10-20 locations that the committee would determine.

Returning back to the once-proud history of Clay as a top filming destination will also be a top priority moving forward, but it won’t come without its hurdles.

Morgan played a powerful video depicting former films shot in the county, including Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), Brenda (1989), The Road Raiders (1989), G.I. Jane (1995), First Time Felon (1997), Sunshine (2002), Basic (2003) and Manchurian Candidate (2004).

“You can see the robust history,” she said.

Morgan said The question will bring success back to Clay, which was cut short after incentives stopped around 2004 to 2005.

One method could be getting in touch with contacts neighbor Georgia, a top movie destination just a short two-hour drive from the county.

There was also plenty to discuss during the Grant meeting, including proposed changes and updates to the bid scoring algorithm and 2022-23 Fiscal Year grant guidelines.