By MAX FILBY
About $13 million already has been raised for the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts, which kicked off its public campaign Tuesday during a ceremonial groundbreaking in downtown Findlay.
The public campaign will be an effort to raise about $2 million more for the center.
An endowment fund of $2 million will also help pay for the project, so total fundraising for the building will be $17 million.
The original $13 million was raised through private and corporate donations.
“This reinforces how ready the community is for something like this,” said Katherine Kreuchauf, president of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. “It’s very exciting but it’s important to remember that this is just the beginning.”
To earn another $2 million in donations, the center will be offering named seats and bricks to those who donate certain amounts of money.
With the public phase of the project starting, Kreuchauf and Edward Reading, chairman of the board for the new arts center, said it’s important they are successful in reaching out to community members.
“It’s very important because it’s a community-based project and we need everybody to embrace it,” Reading said.
The arts center will incorporate the auditorium of the former Central Middle School.
People who attended the groundbreaking Tuesday heard from Reading, Tom Donnell, and Marathon CEO Gary Heminger.
Donnell, the chairman emeritus of the board at Fifth Third Bank of Northwestern Ohio, was one of the project’s earliest supporters, Kreuchauf said. He recalled some of his memories of Central’s auditorium.
“Can you imagine how culturally challenged this community would be in 2015 without a place like this?” Donnell asked the crowd.
Heminger, who is co-chair of the arts center’s committee with his wife, also spoke. Heminger called the arts center something vital to move the community forward.
Marathon is the lead donor for the project. The size of the company’s donation hasn’t been made public.
“This is great for the community,” Heminger said. “It’s really put us on a new stage.”
Heminger also said opportunities that an arts center can offer residents will help Marathon attract better employees to the area.
Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik also attended the ceremony and said the building’s downtown location will benefit area businesses and residents. Mihalik thanked Marathon for making the arts center a possibility.
“Marathon is part of what makes Findlay so great,” Mihalik said of the company’s investment in the arts. “I’m excited to see this coming to fruition.”