The Fire Ball, held Nov. 5, 2005, at Harvard University’s Soldier Field athletic facilities, is intended to be the first of four such events — one for each element — to help Mount Auburn Hospital raise $21 million for expansion. The cost of admission and silent auction added to the $12.5 million the hospital has already generated for the expansion, which includes a significant parking garage. (Photo: Lawrence E. Miller)

The Fire Ball, held Nov. 5, 2005, at Harvard University’s Soldier Field athletic facilities, is intended to be the first of four such events — one for each element — to help Mount Auburn Hospital raise $21 million for expansion. The cost of admission and silent auction added to the $12.5 million the hospital has already generated for the expansion, which includes a significant parking garage. (Photo: Lawrence E. Miller)

Mount Auburn Hospital held its Fire Ball on Saturday, bringing together several hundred men in black and women in red for an injection of cash into the hospital’s expansion plans.

It was the first of four events being sponsored by Mount Auburn Hospital’s auxiliary over three years to meet the $21 million needed to build — more than half of which the hospital already has.

In addition to attracting 500 people at $300 each, after cocktails came a silent auction. Among the lots were two tickets to “Saturday Night Live” with cast party, hotel accommodations, airfare and a gift certificate to cover dinner and cab fare. Jeanette Clough, president and chief executive of Mount Auburn, dangled dinner and a Red Sox game. Also offered were such things as six one-pound lobsters and 12 pounds of steamers shipped anywhere in the United States, a one-year membership in a health club and luxury items such as a Hermes scarf or a pale blue Coach bag.

What the hospital and community wins with the expansion, however, is tempered by the loss of the historic and elegant Parsons Building, a section of the hospital dating back to 1886 that was designed to give patients a healing environment — light, fresh air and pretty views.

Designed by Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, of Harvard Square, the facility will largely replace the Parson Building with new patient rooms, surgical facilities, a critical-care pavilion, cardiovascular center and parking garage. Neighbors weren’t pleased, but “recognizing this as inevitable,” said Fleet Hill, a local activist, “the neighborhood association opted to stand down in its opposition” to demolition and instead focus on improving what would be built.

An entertainer and Fire Ball attendees interact at the glitzy, $300-a-seat fund-raising event, held Nov. 5, 2005, for Mount Auburn Hospital expansion plans. (Photo: Lawrence E. Miller)

An entertainer and Fire Ball attendees interact at the glitzy, $300-a-seat fund-raising event, held Nov. 5, 2005, for Mount Auburn Hospital expansion plans. (Photo: Lawrence E. Miller)

“The neighbors and the hospital have come together and worked out issues where everyone sort of gives a little and takes a little,” said Michael O’Connell, vice president of planning and marketing for the hospital, during the Fire Ball, held at Harvard’s Soldier’s Field Athletic Complex.

“We’re not there yet to move forward,” he said. “We don’t have everything final approved,” but he is confident they are headed in the right direction.

Hill confirmed that the hospital’s response “has been in the direction of the neighborhood’s goals.”

That bittersweet tone was nowhere to be found in the Fire Ball revels. Dinner began with a roasted fall vegetable and goat cheese terrine. Then came grilled tenderloin, roasted butternut squash risotto and baby yellow and red beets. The Sultans of Swing played, people danced and an army of servers poured wine — primarily red.

There was a lot of red, keeping with the evening’s theme. When dinner began, the red feathery boas roping off the dining area were cut and given out. Red lights glittered on the lapels of those who donated $100 for a chance at winning corporate box seats for the Red Sox’s 2006 season.

Kelly Cass, of the hospital’s marketing firm, Aigner Associates, said the event attracted new donors in addition to longtime supporters. The goal will be to keep that up with the next events, to be named after the elements air, water and earth.

Thomas P. O’Neill III, chairman of the hospital’s trustees, and Joe Shortsleeve, chief correspondent for CBS4 News, were auctioneers for the night. Shortsleeve says his son is a regular contributor to Mount Auburn Hospital, because “he manages to break something almost every year.”

Marc Levy contributed to this report.