By MAX FILBY
Construction of the $10 million Marathon Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to start in May, with a groundbreaking celebration taking place toward the end of April.
“We haven’t seen even one ounce of hesitation on this,” Ed Reading, chairman of the arts center’s board, told Findlay Rotary Club on Monday.
Marathon Petroleum Corp. donated a large, unspecified amount to the new arts center, located at the site of the former Central Middle School on West Main Cross Street. The school was demolished last year, but its auditorium remains and will be renovated and added onto with a new lobby, entrance, art gallery, black box theater and multipurpose room.
“We need a community space like this,” Reading said.
The center’s new auditorium will have 1,000 seats, Reading said. Although the number is a decrease from its previous capacity of 1,400, the reduction was needed in order to widen aisles and seats and to expand the stage.
“Our experts have assured us that 1,000 is considered the optimum number of seats to have,” Reading said.
While the auditorium will be updated, the arts center board is hoping to preserve the theater’s art-deco style and some of its other history.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t lose its character,” Reading said.
Reading presented a short video to Rotary members that detailed the need for a new arts center in the community, and how Central’s history was something that should be celebrated, not torn down. That’s why Findlay City Schools sold the property to the arts board for just $1 in 2013.
“I remember taking a dollar out of my wallet to pay for it,” Reading said. “I guess since it was my buck I might own the building now.”
Reading and arts board member Katherine Kreuchauf both said they want the new arts center to become a community hub that can provide a place for events and meetings. Kreuchauf suggested the new 230-space parking lot could be a place where something like an art festival could be hosted.
“It’s not so much about the bricks and mortar as it is about creating a place where we can come together as a community,” she said.
Reading and Kreuchauf said they hope the center can attract traveling shows and will become known as one of the premiere places to perform in northwestern Ohio.
One addition that will encourage that is the building of new loading docks. The docks will allow traveling performers to easily move equipment, costumes and other tools in and out of the arts center.
“That’s such an important part,” Reading said.
Reading and Kreuchauf thanked donors and board members at Monday’s Rotary meeting, saying the center wouldn’t be making progress without them.
Two people recognized were Gary Heminger, chief executive officer of Marathon Petroleum, and his wife, Jane. Both are co-chairs of the project’s committee.
“We’re very, very grateful,” Kreuchauf said. “We believe an exciting new day is approaching here in Findlay.”
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