SARASOTA -- Ground was broken today for Patriot Plaza, a 2,800- seat covered amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery.
The Patterson Foundation is funding the $8 million facility, which is expected to be completed by spring of 2014. Patterson is also funding an endowment to maintain the facility. No taxpayer money will be used.
Patriot Plaza will feature a 20,800-square-foot glass covering, 48,000 square feet of walkways and gathering areas, an 80-foot-tall stainless steel flagpole, commissioned art, and a rostrum the size of one-and-a-half tennis courts seating a 55-piece orchestra.
Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of the Patterson Foundation, said the endowment is designed to ensure Patriot Plaza is as pristine 100 years from now as it will be at its dedication.
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Steve Muro, under secretary for Memorial Affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans of Affairs, noted that Sarasota National Cemetery has grown tremendously since its opening in 2009.
Already, 5,000 veterans have been laid to rest there.
"The garden of stone keeps growing. We'll have close to 100,000 here in 20 years," Muro said.
"The headstones tell us a short story about someone who served their country," he said.