Thursday, September 16, 2010

Saratoga Spa State Park and SPAC numbers up for 2010.

schenectady gazette:

State parks officials pleased with summer season
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marcy Velte

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Despite budget cuts and the threat of closures for the 2010-11 season, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is calling its summer season a success.

According to Saratoga-Capital Region Director Alane Ball Chinian, region-wide attendance for parks and historic sites increased 17 percent from last year. Attendance at John Boyd Thacher State Park increased by 2 percent.

Saratoga-Capital District Regional Parks Commission members said they believe the increase is due to the summer’s beautiful weather and the economy. Many families chose to take “staycations” or local trips this summer instead of traveling far away. Another theory was that the public had been scared the parks would remain closed because of budget cuts. When budget extenders re-opened the parks, people took advantage of the opportunity.

“We are thrilled to have had such a healthy season,” said Chinian.

Heather Mabee, chairwoman of the commission, said the Saratoga Performing Arts Center had a great season also, but attendance was down slightly from previous years.

This year, the commission approved a $10 parking fee for all SPAC concertgoers who park within the recreational area. This increased revenue by 57 percent from last year, when only cars parking at the north end were forced to pay the fee. The charge was put in place to offset the price of cleaning up after SPAC shows, extra police and overtime pay, since the commission receives no money from the concerts themselves.

Chinian said the concert season was also safer than usual after state police strictly enforced the alcohol ban on park grounds this year.

“There was a dramatic difference,” said Chinian.

She said police received additional training on how to spot and test for alcohol on-site. As a result, intoxication arrests and hospital transports were down and the amount of trash left behind decreased.

However, with 40 percent of the commission’s budget cut in the past two years and eight local state park employees opting to take the new retirement incentive come September, there is still work to be done.

“There is a lot of experience walking out of the door all at once,” said Mabee. “We are losing people with knowledge we might not get back,” since a state-wide hiring freeze is still in effect for most positions.

However, Chinian said many retirees have pledged to come back as volunteers or work as seasonal employees.

Commission members expressed concern over the loss of so many workers.

Mabee said the cuts were “getting ridiculous.” One member said if Thacher Park was to close, it would deteriorate in just two years.

To make sure legislators don’t look to cut park funds again next year, the state parks office and Saratoga-Capital Region commission members are already reaching out to lawmakers to express the importance of New York’s parks and historic sites.

“What we are trying to get legislators to see is it would be a huge cost to get [parks] back to their previous states,” said Mabee. “If any close, expect them to close forever.”----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SPAC hits high notes in Dutoit's last season
By Steve Barnes Senior Writer
Published: 03:01 p.m., Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The final season for Charles Dutoit as principal conductor and music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center helped push overall attendance for SPAC's summer 2010 classical and dance programming up by about 11 percent over last year.

Total attendance was about 92,500 for classical events, an increase of 9,500 from the 2009 attendance, according to figures released Wednesday by SPAC.

The non-Live Nation season at SPAC encompasses residencies by the orchestra and the New York City Ballet, plus the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival and the annual jazz festival, as well as such newer offerings as beginning-of-the-summer jazz concerts, modern dance performances and SPAC's first battle of the bands.

Orchestra audiences climbed by 21 percent over three weeks, to 40,464, and income was up by 15 percent, totaling $986,184, SPAC said.

Ballet attendance was down by 1 percent and income by 8 percent, to 34,509 and $863,065, respectively, for the two-week season.

Although overall chamber-music attendance declined, because there were two fewer performances, the per-performance attendance increased by 11 percent. Jazz audiences were 4 percent smaller, at 11,491 over two days, and income dropped by 2 percent.

Speaking of the larger orchestra audiences, Marcia White, SPAC's president and executive director, said, "Their energy and enthusiasm contributed to the enjoyment of each performance and was the best possible parting gift for our beloved Maestro Dutoit."

Dutoit and violinist Chantal Juillet, who ran the chamber festival for 19 of the 20 summers Dutoit was at SPAC, announced in February that this year would be their final season at SPAC.

The pair got married earlier this year. Albany Times Union

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