Shriners trade Southside for Wells Road facility

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/12/22

ORANGE PARK -- Although the Shriners have met at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville for years, but they now have downsized and will be moving to Clay County.

But to club members, it’s …

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Shriners trade Southside for Wells Road facility

Posted

ORANGE PARK -- Although the Shriners have met at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville for years, but they now have downsized and will be moving to Clay County.

But to club members, it’s more than lowering expenses.

They’ve moved to a new location on Wells Road, but their mission remains the same: raising money for Shriners Hospitals For Children. The 560 Wells Road property, which contains 17,653 square feet, sold for more than $2.2 million.

Facility manager Gary Thigpen said Orange Park is more community-oriented and the Shriners are making minor improvements to the building’s interior.

“It’s the start of a new chapter,” Thigpen said. “We’re happy to be there and we’re pretty excited.”

He said the 24,320 square-foot Jacksonville facility – which hosted shows, festivals and then-presidential candidate Marco Rubio in 2016 – was too large for the Shriners’ needs.

“That will not become a rental venue over there on Wells Road, it will just be a Shriner facility,” Thigpen said. “The main purpose is to support those hospitals through our own fundraising.”

The organization’s nearest hospital is in Tampa. It recently opened a clinic in Gainesville.

“Downsizing to a building like the one in Orange Park is more appropriate, so we can focus on these children,” he added.

Before moving to Southside Jacksonville in the mid-1980s, the group called a Jacksonville landmark home. Built in the 1910s, the Morocco Temple on Newnan Street hosted celebrities and dignitaries in its storied history.

“There’s a lot of memories in that building,” Thigpen said of the Morocco Shrine Center. “It’s the same way that people probably speak fondly of the downtown Jacksonville building as well.”

Thigpen said the new building can better accommodate club members on the west side of the St. Johns River.

“The bulk of our membership lives in places like Live Oak, Gainesville and Ocala,” Thigpen said. “It goes all the way across to Palm Coast.”

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