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State grants to help turn Saratoga Performing Arts Center into a cultural destination

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — With the help of two recently announced state grants, totaling nearly $1.7 million, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center will enhance its facilities and let tourists know about its world-class entertainment offerings.

The grants — designated for a multimedia marketing campaign, improvements to concession areas and additional education space — fall under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative for economic and community development.

“SPAC’s vision for the future includes a much larger footprint in the region, including expanding the wide array of arts, culture and education programs,” said Elizabeth Sobol, the center’s president and CEO.

The projects, partially funded by the state awards, sprang from Sobol’s first visit to the area from New York City a little over two years ago when she interviewed for her current position.

Seeing the potential at SPAC and the surrounding area drew her here, and once she became aware of what she called its “cultural vibrancy,” her vision took hold.

“I had no idea. People often think of the race track and maybe wouldn’t think to come here for the arts,” she said. “What struck me was how much I discovered here … I thought, ‘How can we spread the word and bring cultural tourists here?’”

At the same time, Sobol saw the need for upgrades.

“I was looking at SPAC through the eyes of a newcomer,” she said. “I saw crumbling limestone, broken windows, and the concessions were a problem. Of the 100 bathrooms, because they are so old, we can only keep about 40 to 50 percent operating at any time.”

The REDC award of $1.5 million will help move a $5.5 million improvement project forward.

“We will demolish part of what is there and rebuild beautiful park-like structures,” she said.

The rebuild will make the area more functional and safe and add educational space, she added.

In the past two years, SPAC has increased educational programs to children, boosting attendance from 5,000 to 38,000, and has plans to continue increasing those numbers, Sobol said. As part of the project, the center will add 6,000 square feet of space for workshops and a pavilion for pre-show talks.

The project will replace aging infrastructure and provide new facilities, including classroom and gathering spaces. Additionally, SPAC will replace aging and inadequate restroom and concession facilities.

She said a previous $1.75 million grant will pay for ramp renovations and lighting this spring, and the concessions area redo will begin in 2020.

As part of the multimedia marketing campaign, funded by a $195,000 I Love NY award, SPAC has partnered with Caffe Lena, Opera Saratoga, Skidmore College and National Museum of Dance to spur economic development and draw cultural tourists.

“The marketing will focus on promoting Saratoga Springs as a thriving destination for cultural arts,” said Darryl Leggieri, president of Discover Saratoga.

Sobol said the level of cultural arts locally is world-class, and the campaign will reach beyond the area to draw new people here.

This year, advertising campaigns will be created, and in 2020 they will make the big media buys and roll out the campaigns, Sobol said.

“These projects solve a lot of challenges,” she said.

Regional Economic Development Council awards

The state announced the Regional Economic Development Council awards on Tuesday at the Capital Center in Albany.

$763 million was dispersed across 10 regions. The North Country received $64.8 million for 70 projects, and the Capital Region received $67 million for 95 projects.

County Applicant Project Amount
Essex The Fort Ticonderoga Association Ticonderoga marketing $300,000
Town of Ticonderoga Wastewater treatment study $30,000
Essex County Shared technology services $199,854
Hamilton Town of Long Lake Comprehensive plan $35,000
Adirondack Historical Association Workforce training and development programs $59,250
Saratoga Capital Region BOCES Shared food services program $945,662
Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc. Lock by Lock: Why the World Needs to Know About the Champlain Canal $49,500
SPAC Multimedia marketing campaign $195,000
SPAC SPAC improvement project $1.5 million
Warren City of Glens Falls Henry Street infiltration and inflow study $100,000
City of Glens Falls Climate smart communities certifications actions $43,500
EDC Warren County South Street redevelopment funds $1.5 million
Finch Paper LLC Lean manufacturing training $90,000
FrontStreet Mountain Development Ski Bowl Mountain Inn $800,000
Town of Bolton Rogers Memorial Park Waterfront sustainability improvements $600,000
Town of Hague Wastewater treatment plant improvements $230,625
Town of Lake George Wasterwater pump station consolidation $657,028
Town of Warrensburg Library Avenue sewer district extension study $30,000
Village of Lake George Infiltration and inflow study $100,000
Warren County Schroon Lake Invasive Species Prevention and Control program $289,750
Warren County Soil & Water Conservation Erosion control $65,200
Washington Doty Machine Works Machine purchase $400,000
Friends of the Washington County IBA, Inc. AZS viewing area phase II $63,191
Homefront Developlment Corp. Cambridge TA $20,000
Hubbard Hall Projects, Inc. Susan B. Anthony programming $30,000
Town of Granville Northern Slate Valley Rail Trail $250,000
Village of Granville Wastewater treatment plant disinfection study $24,950
Village of Hudson Falls Paris Park Green Project $725,000
Village of Hudson Falls Clark, School and Union streets water mains project $750,000
Village of Whitehall Public parking facility for Flat Iron buiding $300,000
Washington County Department of Public Works $272,500
Salem Art Works Inc. Workforce expansion $25,000

Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli covers Washington County government and other county news and events.


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