ARLINGTON – The curtain just rose a little higher.
In a quick ceremony on Monday, the Arlington City Council promised to contribute $500,000 toward the money needed to build a performing arts center at Arlington High School. The $4.5 million, 700-seat center will serve the entire community.
“Ultimately, it will be an economic development tool for the city,” Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson said.
Money raised over the past two years has come from student penny drives, Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs, and private and government grants.
Arlington became the biggest donor in November. City leaders voted to reinvest the local share of the sales tax levied on recent school district construction projects resulting from a $54 million bond measure voters approved in 2000.
The bond measure didn’t include the performing arts center. School district leaders and volunteers vowed to try to build it anyway, without asking voters for more money.
“For the city to decide to make that contribution is huge,” said Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes,. “We think it’s going to be the critical link that will allow us to complete it sooner than later.”
Organizers of Arts Alive, a fund-raising campaign led by the Arlington Education Foundation, hope that the city’s $500,000 boost leads to more contributions.
“It’s good to know what the community can do together,” said Cindy Huleatt, Arlington Education Foundation president.
Volunteers have raised close to $1.8 million toward completing the inside of the performing arts center. They need another $700,000.
The Arlington School Board in 2002 pledged $2 million toward the project, and the center’s shell was built. The district owns 489 acres of forestland and is selling timber on it to cover the cost. Arts Alive hopes to reach its goal in the next few months, but Huleatt said there’s no way to know when the final amount will be raised.
“It does seem like a lot, but it really isn’t when you look at how far we’ve come,” she said.