PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Jo Roling glanced at the heavy mist falling upon Platteville’s Legion Park, then at the clusters of people sheltering under a nearby tent.

“The rain gives a reason why we need a year-round event center,” Roling said.

Roling and other volunteer organizers will realize their goal of constructing a new event center for Platteville. Community members, civic leaders and business representatives broke ground Sunday on an approximately 5,700-square-foot event center at Platteville’s Legion Park.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held during the third and final day of the 73rd annual Platteville Dairy Days.

Sunday’s Dairy Days lineup included a kids tractor pull and the Southwest Auto Club Car Show.

However, at noon the focus was on a gathering of fundraising project organizers and donors on the site of a replacement event center.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Sheri Engelke, chairwoman of the organizing committee. “Construction is supposed to begin next week.”

Engelke and other community members met about a year ago to discuss the fate of aging Art Hall, the current building used to host events at the park. Constructed in the 1940s, Art Hall hosts family reunions, graduation parties and other gatherings during the summer months only — the building lacks heat.

Meeting participants voiced support for a replacement building.

“People told us what they wanted,” Engelke said. “They wanted it big enough to hold events year-round.”

Organizers began raising funds in September 2018.

“We’re at three-quarters of a million (raised),” Engelke said. “We have enough to build the building.”

More than 250 individuals and businesses donated money for the fundraising effort.

“It’s amazing how much support we got so quickly,” said Roling, who coordinated fundraising efforts for the organizing committee. “This (new event center) is something we really need.”

Mary Broske donated $100,000 in the name of her late husband, Bill.

“I wish he was here to see this,” Broske said at Sunday’s ceremony. “I had such a wonderful husband. He was so good for everyone.”

Bill Broske, of Platteville, died in January. After working in his family’s cheese and butter manufacturing business, Broske worked for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and served as an international cheese judge and a supporter for numerous Platteville-area causes.

“He was wonderful with people and he would have loved this building,” Mary Broske said.

Ben Reeves, of Platteville, was another of the project’s donors.

“My two daughters went to University of Wisconsin-Madison and I had mentally budgeted five years (of college) for them but they were done in four (years). So, I donated the $50,000 I had planned for them.”

Reeves, a financial adviser for Edward Jones in Platteville, said he expects the new event center will serve many community members in southwest Wisconsin.

“With Dairy Days and with reunions and all of the family get-togethers, this (project) just looked like one of the best ways to give back to the community.”

Organizers now aim to raise another $200,000 to purchase amenities such as a dividing wall so it could be rented to two different people and new tables and chairs for the planned center.

“They could be added later, but we’d like to add them on the front side,” Engelke said.

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