Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saratogian, 9/26/07-"It's a beautiful hot day--open the pool!"

Once again it is 86 degrees, the skies are azure blue as it has been on so many days in June and September 2007. The Victoria Pool still surrounded with magnificent flowers sits empty with its crystal clear water and Saratogians must make do with other venues. What a shame that our tax dollars so hard fought and won to rehabilitate the Victoria Pool are being wasted with a closed Pool for only the chipmunks and squirrels to enjoy.

Louise J. Goldstein&Andrew M. Jennings, Co-Founders
Save the Victoria Pool Society

Monday, September 24, 2007

SPAC renovations delayed by legislature

Panel: SPAC's renovation plans face delay
Funding needed quickly if work is to be complete by next summer, board says

By STEVE BARNES, Senior writer Click byline for more stories by writer. First published: Saturday, September 22, 2007
COLONIE -- The next phase of renovations at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, originally planned to be completed by next summer, will have to be postponed if state money promised for the project is not made available within the next few weeks, SPAC's board of directors learned Friday.
"The funding is tied up," John Nigro told fellow board members during the governing body's fall meeting at the Desmond Hotel. At a board meeting earlier this year, Nigro said he was "definitely expecting favorable news" about a state OK on a request of $2.1 million for a complete renovation of the exterior of SPAC's amphitheater. It would complement an interior overhaul unveiled at the beginning of the 2007 season.
Unless the funds are freed up before Oct. 15, Nigro told the board, "the project will not be complete by May of next year."
A six-month impasse has left parts of the state budget unresolved, including capital projects.
In more positive news, SPAC expects a $100,000 surplus for the third straight year, after a decade and a half of running deficits of about $500,000 annually.
"All in all, we're in very good shape," Rick Geary, SPAC's chief financial officer, told the board. He said SPAC shows increases over last year in a variety of financial columns including income, assets and investments; SPAC's endowment is $4.1 million, up $600,000 from a year ago, due mostly to gains from annual returns averaging 14 percent, Geary said.
Attendance and sales revenue for the classical season -- which includes the Philadelphia Orchestra, Freihofer's Jazz Festival, the New York City Ballet and the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival -- increased this summer, with attendance rising 8 percent and income increasing 13 percent over 2006.
The orchestra, jazz festival and chamber seasons showed clear growth. Ballet attendance was marginally up from last year, when there were three fewer performances than in 2007; but it had shrunk by 21 percent when compared to 2005, the most recent year in which the ballet gave a full season of 21 performances.
The ballet and orchestra seasons each lost about $1 million, as has long been the case. City Ballet's residency costs $110,000 per performance to present; the orchestra, which performs less frequently, costs $163,000 per concert night. Ticket sales cover about 50 percent of SPAC's costs, with the remainder made up by fundraising.
Steve Barnes can be reached at 454-5489 or by e-mail at
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2007, Capital Newspapers

Friday, September 21, 2007

Roosevelt Baths promised to be bubbly again!

Hot baths lose tap
By JIM KINNEY , The Saratogian
Mineral waters will no longer be diluted SARATOGA SPRINGS - Visitors to the Roosevelt Baths in Saratoga Spa State Park will be able to soak their cares away in piping hot - and undiluted - mineral water by the time tourist season rolls around next year, according to an agreement announced Thursday by the state.Delaware North Companies - the firm that won the right this summer to operate the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Conference Center for 20 years starting in January - has agreed to spend $450,000 on improvements to the New Deal-era bathhouse. That work will include four new water heaters to heat the park's famous mineral water to bath temperatures."That's wonderful news," city Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue said. "I know it's something Senator Bruno has been working on."The bathhouse has been using hot city water to warm and dilute the mineral water for about 20 years. The minerals in the spring water at the park fouled water heaters.In March, Fred Dicker of the New York Post wrote about city water being used at the baths, prompting storms of protest. One of the people who voiced displeasure was state Sen. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick. He represents Saratoga Springs.After he got involved, the state hired the engineering firm of Malcolm Pirnie to find out if it is even feasible to heat the mineral water consistently. That study resulted in Thursday's agreement, according to a news release.The mineral waters with their health benefits are the whole reason the Spa State Park exists."It makes a difference. I've been talking to some of the old- timers," McTygue said. "It makes a difference in the bubbles and how you float in the bath."Also, it's a simple question of fairness, he said. The current operators of the Roosevelt, Xanterra Resorts, charges $25 for a 40-minute mineral bath. Full spa treatments can run as high as $315."Then to have it mostly be municipal tap water," McTygue said. "I don't think so."Eileen Larrabee, spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said the $450,000 in improvements announced Thursday will also include new furniture, window treatments, decorations and a revamped lobby. There will be coffee, tea and lunch service as well as a relaxation/solitude room with a water feature.All told, Delaware North has committed to more than $10 million in improvements throughout the park over 20 years and also $2 million in improvements to the Gideon Putnam specifically.Those numbers are minimums, though, Larrabee said. The state is still working out its agreement with Delaware North. "We should have that agreement in about six weeks," she said. The company already runs Saratoga Gaming and Raceway as well as park and resort properties around the country.
The state will also start work on a full-scale master plan for the park - including golf courses, trails bathhouses etc. - by the end of this year."It's basically a complete assessment," Larrabee said.The master plan would also include public input sessions. It wouldn't be completed until 2008 or 2009. Reach Jim Kinney at or call 583-8729 ext.216
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

New York City Ballet SAFE for 2008--needs long-term commitment from SPAC

NYC Ballet back in '08
By PAUL POST , The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Saratoga Performing Arts Center is expected to introduce a new marketing director, review financials and discuss upcoming marketing initiatives at Friday's 2 p.m. board meeting, slated for the Desmond-Americana in Colonie.SPAC President Marcia White said the New York City Ballet has made a firm commitment to return for the 2008 season, despite this year's 7 percent decline in average attendance.The ballet drew 45,034 patrons for its three-week summer residency, up from 43,178 in 2006, but this year's program had three more performances, meaning average attendance fell from 2,398 to 2,144, a difference of 254 per show."They will be back at Saratoga for another season, but people need to support the ballet," White said.The ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra have annual losses of about $1 million each in Saratoga. Donations, gifts and SPAC's endowment make up the difference from ticket sale shortfalls.Previously, White has said SPAC's financial future needs to become more stable and secure before long-term deals with NYCB can be worked out. Currently, SPAC continues to work with the ballet on a year-to-year basis."There's nothing bad about that," White said. "That's pretty much the way we have the orchestra as well. You're always looking at costs."In early 2004, SPAC announced it was dropping the ballet for financial reasons, resulting in a firestorm of protests that prompted a state audit of SPAC's business practices and the eventual departure of former President Herb Chesbrough. Despite community outcry and statements from state and local officials about the New York City Ballet's economic importance to the region, attendance continues to decline."There is so much competition in this area for events," White said. "There's just an awful lot of activity."Meanwhile, orchestra attendance rose 10 percent this year, and turnout for the Freihofer's Jazz Festival was at its highest level in five years, 12 percent more than 2006 figures. White said SPAC's recent Wine and Food Festival also had strong support.SPAC has hired a new marketing director, Shane Williams-Ness, to replace Vesna Gjaja who will be leaving at month's end. Williams-Ness comes to SPAC from Sawchuk Brown Associates, one of the Capital District's leading public relations firms.Visitors to SPAC enjoyed a variety of interior amphitheater improvements this year, highlighted by all-new padded seating. Work began last fall, continued throughout the winter and was completed this spring - the second phase of multi-year capital improvement plan.Phase three calls for $2.5 million worth of exterior improvements, such as painting the front facade, installing new lighting and renovating ramps leading to the balcony. Funding would come from the state, but it's unclear if money will be made available for work to be done prior to the 2008 summer season.

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©The Saratogian 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

SPAC Board&Saratoga Chamber need to wake up and promote New York City Ballet

print story back
SPAC must make the ballet season pop

By PAUL BRAY First published: Sunday, September 9, 2007
Ballet is dead, long live ballet, or so I thought after reading about Bard College in Monocle magazine.
Bard, located about 50 miles south of Albany, is a "cultural powerhouse" and "ready to pop." Bard President Leon Botstein "believes that classical music is an endangered species," but he still "wants it presented in a way that audiences can relate to."
This summer I despaired at the number of empty seats at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (a 10 percent decrease in attendance from the previous year) for the dazzling performances of the New York City Ballet. Presenters of ballet and other classical arts face challenging times with declining audiences. But as Botstein at Bard demonstrates, challenges can be surmounted. SPAC should and can be a cultural powerhouse. It especially should pop during the three weeks of ballet in July.
The City Ballet is about excellence wrapped in the beauty of artfully choreographed movement and music. SPAC and our region should also be about excellence. For three weeks each year, we and visitors from around the world should fill the theater and lawn for each performance of the finest in ballet.
Here are three ways to make SPAC pop in July: better packaging, better understanding of how to attract an audience; and getting our economic developers to understand that it is all about excellence.
Begin by making the ballet's residency the center piece of the Saratoga Dance Festival to be as world renown as festivals in Edinburgh, Spoleto and Salzburg. The City Ballet is world class. In July, whoever thinks about ballet should think Saratoga.
Potential partners like Skidmore, the Dance Museum and regional performing arts venues should be enlisted to coordinate efforts and offer dance and other related performances to complement the main stage. Some hoopla in the state park and on Broadway in Saratoga Springs could add to the festive atmosphere. Make it festive and Saratoga becomes a New York state showcase and the dance place to be in July.
SPAC's board needs to address the price consciousness of local residents. That price consciousness is part of the local culture and it is not related to how much money there is locally to spend on the ballet. The richest people I've known have been tight wads. They need to know that they are getting value for the money they spend. They like to think they are getting a bargain even when they are not.
It is more important to fill all the seats than to despair that something is being given away too cheaply. Smart venues play price sensitivity like a virtuoso plays a violin with freebies and bargains, building an audience that still ends up paying its share.
Finally, the ballet must be recognized as a symbol of excellence. Excellence is what being a successful player in the high-tech economy is about. Arts and excellence attracts the "creative class" that drives tech economies, but its positive effect is deeper than that. Cities and regions like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco thrive because excellence in sports, arts, food, urban life and architecture is expected.
Having the City Ballet here each summer makes the statement that we value and can attract excellence. A performance in a half empty theater sends the message that we are bush league, that we do not know excellence or are unwilling to support it.
We should ask this question: What are our chambers of commerce and economic growth promoters doing to highlight the ballet and show the world that this region values excellence?
They are not doing as much as they should and could. We need to keep our economic developers feet to the fire when it comes to doing more than just being Tech Valley cheerleaders to attract the businesses they want. They need to lead when it comes to making this region the best it can be in all things. If we are attractive in the arts, environment, urban life and education, tech development will happen.
Ballet as performed by the New York City Ballet is not just for gray heads. Dance has been an element of civilization since civilizations began. Responding to it is very much ingrained in all of us: young, middle age and elderly.
Instead of wringing his hands over a decline in classical arts, Botstein at Bard is taking chances investing in world class architecture and arts, and making things happen. Let us hope the leaders in our region can follow in those foot steps.
Paul M. Bray is founding president of the Albany Roundtable, a civic lunch forum. His e-mail address is
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2007, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.HOME CONTACT US SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSPAPER HOW TO ADVERTISE PRIVACY RIGHTS COPYRIGHT CLASSROOM ENRICHMENT

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hall of Springs cherubs back at work at last.

Spa State Park repairs fountains
By JIM KINNEY , The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS - For more than 30 years, people have just walked past the four fountains at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Spa State Park without noticing the coral-colored stonework, the carved cornucopias and the stone cherubs, their cheeks puffed out with that distinctive fountain-head look."They were hidden by shrubs and it just sort of blended in with the rest of the building," said Mike Greenslade, park manager for Saratoga Spa State Park. "But that won't happen now, especially once they are all up and running."Maintenance staff at the park have already gotten two of the four fountains, the two on the south side of the building within the Saratoga Performing Arts Center gates, running. Workers have one of the larger fountains on the north side, nearer to the Hall of Springs entrance, almost ready to go. The other north-side fountain is still pulled apart, waiting for workers to install new grout between the stone blocks to make it watertight once again.Greenslade said maintenance workers have squeezed work on the fountains in between other projects all summer."It takes two people three or four days to get one working again," he said.Not that he's taking credit. He didn't know the crews were working on the fountains until a maintenance director took him on a tour a few weeks ago."We are always looking for little projects like this that we can knock off," he said.Work includes new pumps and plumbing.

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©The Saratogian 2007