$600,000 was a great start, but when plans were finished for the center, it came with a price tag of $3.7 million. Keeping the project going then became the responsibility of the Department Director, Cathy Santa, with the help of new Mayor, Thom Feaster and Partners ‘N Progress. Partners ‘N Progress set a fundraising goal of $592,000 and Santa went about securing grants from the State’s Division of Cultural Affairs.
To encourage more individual contributions, the Partners ‘N Progress Foundation sold “star” and “chair” sponsorships which ranged from $100 to $1000. These sponsorships gave contributors permanent recognition on either one of the walls in the building or an engraved plaque on one of the theater seats.
In two years, the City’s combined fundraising drive brought in a total of $1 million in state grants, with an additional $482,000 in corporate and private donations through Partners ‘N Progress. Over 75 chair sponsorships and 300 star sponsorships were sold, and $110,000 was generated in in-kind donations of products and services.
In June 1999, the Partners ‘N Progress Foundation joined with Angels for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) organization with the simple goal of advancing the arts in mid-Pinellas county and making them accessible to everyone. Both boards joined together under one president and the first annual fundraising drive was initiated in September 1999.