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ETSU finally breaks ground on the James C. And Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts.

Hannah Swayze • Updated Sep 9, 2017 at 9:19 AM

Groundbreaking and naming ceremonies have become frequent news, as East Tennessee State University finally broke ground on its new arts center on Friday afternoon in front of a crowd of nearly 200 community members, students, staff and faculty.

The $53 million facility will be situated next to the Center at Millennium Park on West State of Franklin Road and is expected to be finished around the fall or winter of 2019.

The center will house performance and instructional space for ETSU arts programs, including a larger performance hall seating 1,200 to be used not only by the university but by the community as well.

The groundbreaking also doubled as a naming ceremony with the facility officially named the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts — which was voted on only hours before by the ETSU Board of Trustees. The ceremony comes a bit more than two weeks after the university’s new football stadium was officially named for William B. Greene Jr.

"This is a historic day for ETSU as we realize a dream that began more than a quarter-century ago," said ETSU President Brian Noland. "It is also a day that we honor the legacy of members of the Martin family and the powerful way in which they have transformed the arts on the campus."

The late James C. Martin pledged the lead gift of $3 million toward the facility when fundraising began in 2013, which boosted Martin's giving to the university to around $7 million. That number includes the initial monetary donation that established the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU in 2009 in memory of his wife.

Martin's daughter, Sonia King, allocated an additional $1 million for the facility.

The facility was made possible through state appropriations, private donations and a partnership with the city of Johnson City.

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