VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — When Hurricane Ian hit the Venice Theatre in late September last year, the storm did devastating damage.
“I cried. I cried. I came over that bridge and I cried for days and days and days,” said Eric Watters who now works as the Development Director of the theater.
“In a normal year, I’m responsible for raising somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million just to make our annual budget work. My job has gotten bigger since Hurricane Ian. Because I’m now faced with having to raise four million dollars so we can rebuild our theater,” said Watters.
The storm knocked out the back wall of the building and caused water damage throughout the theater.
“The wall, the back wall crumbled first. I mean, the building was built in 1926. It did not have the same kind of building codes we have today,” said Watters.
On Monday, the theater announced a $100,000 matching grant from the Kathleen K. Catlin Foundation of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County that will help them reach their construction goals.
“So that the dollars we raise, starting January 1st, will be matched dollar for dollar until we hit that $100,000 level,” said Watters who says they hope to re-open the main stage of the theater in January of 2024.