Senate Leaders Unveil Renovated Chambers

Nov 21, 2016

The Senate chambers' stained glass pendant.
Credit Nick Evans

Workers have spent months renovating the Florida Senate chambers. Nick Evans was on hand Monday for the unveiling.

Almost immediately after lawmakers closed the legislative session, in March of this year, construction crews began tearing apart the Senate chambers.

“So all you can see right now is the wood base, and some of the electrical fixtures that used to comprise the rostrum,” Senate President spokeswoman Katie Betta described a few weeks later while men in hardhats worked on demolition.

The six million dollar update is the first full renovation since the chamber was completed in 1978.  And Monday, with lawmakers assembling in the capitol to receive committee assignments and be sworn in, the scene was a bit different.

More than a hundred lawmakers and guests filed into the Senate chamber, but not before outgoing Senate president Andy Gardiner made a few remarks in the rotunda.

“The renovation officially began over 250 days ago,” he told the assembled guests.  “Since that time we’ve had nearly 50,000 hours of work onsite and over 8,300 hours of fabrication.”

The renovations include a new desks and chairs, but also an updated rostrum, carpeting and dome with a stained glass pendant modeled on the one in the historic Capitol. 

Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto was part of the renovation committee, and the Fort Myers Republican can’t settle on a single change she’d call her favorite.

“I love the way it feels,” she says.  “It feels very comfortable it feels like it’s been here forever, it feels like it’s part of the overall complex.

Sen. Kelli Stagel (R-Lakeland) served on the committee as well.

“It’s very welcoming I think,” Stargel says.  “Much brighter.”

“Also this is gorgeous—the stained glass up top with the counties,” she says looking up to the top of the dome.  “There’s little things like that that are subtle, but I think together it all works.”

Aside from cosmetic work, lawmakers took the opportunity to update electrical equipment and make the chamber accessible for people with unique abilities.