The Sarasota National Cemetery will be the recipient of a significant enhancement during the course of the next year.
The Patterson Foundation, in partnership with the National Cemetery Administration, broke ground on a new ceremonial amphitheater Monday, Dec. 3.
The project, dubbed the Patriot Plaza, was conceived as part of the foundation’s Legacy Initiative and was intended to enhance the cemetery and honor the service of veterans.
The $8 million amphitheater, which is fully funded by the Patterson Foundation, is anticipated for dedication in spring 2014. The project represents the first time the National Cemetery Administration has partnered with a private foundation for an enhancement to a national cemetery of this magnitude.
“We wanted to honor the Patterson Foundation’s rich history of military service,” said Debra Jacobs, executive director. “We wanted to look at the philanthropic opportunities available to us and see what wasn’t being done.”
When the cemetery was dedicated in 2008, more than 3,000 people attended, and Jacobs says there was a noticeable lack of shade and seating, and she saw an opportunity for enhancement.
In 2010, the Patterson Foundation began working with the NCA on the design and construction of a ceremonial amphitheater to fulfill this need. Jacobs hopes the project will set an example for philanthropy on a national level.
“The idea was enthusiastically received,” she says. “We wanted to capture our journey and the way we partnered, so that we could share it with the other 130 national cemeteries, which might also want to make enhancements. A national cemetery isn’t always the first thing people think of when they consider philanthropic opportunities.”
The 1.83-acre facility will provide covered seating for 2,800 people and will offer a location for larger ceremonies and military holidays. Other features include a 20,800-square-foot glass covering, 48,000 square feet of walkways and gathering areas and commissioned artwork, to be announced in January, which will be both commemorative and educational.
The NCA is leasing the plot of land to the Patterson Foundation, which will then donate it back upon the project’s completion, and an endowment fund will also be put in place to fund replacement maintenance in the future.
“We view this as a gift that will become a treasure in the region,” says Jacobs. “It will be a project that will honor veterans, inspire patriotism and embrace freedom. Cemeteries are a final resting place, but they’re also a place for the living, and the Patriot Plaza will offer a place for added reflection.”