Friday, March 29, 2013

will spac bring back our beloved new york city ballet?

SPAC, NYC Ballet board presidents to meet next week on Saratoga Springs residency

COLONIE — Talks are continuing for a possible extended New York City Ballet season, Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s board chairwoman said Thursday.

The world-famous, but financially troubled company will spend just one week at SPAC this summer, its shortest stay ever.

However, SPAC Chairwoman Susan Phillips Read said she plans to meet with the ballet’s board president next week, and that a longer residency will no doubt be part of the discussions.

“That’s our goal,” Read said at Thursday’s SPAC meeting at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie. “I will say that they’re making (financial) progress, which is hearkening to us.”

The ballet company lost $1.1 million and had a 4 percent decline in attendance at SPAC last year. The company has performed at SPAC since the venue first opened in 1966. The New York City Ballet had a three-week residency until scaling back to two weeks several years ago for financial reasons.

Two newcomers to SPAC will fill the void from city ballet’s shortened season — National Ballet of Canada and Aspen and Santa Fe Ballet.

The ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra both annually cost SPAC more than $1 million each. Ticket sales cover less than half the cost, with sponsorships and donations comprising the rest.

Read said she believes city ballet board members are “very conscious of the heritage, the legacy” of the company’s Saratoga season.

SPAC’s stage was intentionally constructed with the exact same dimensions as Lincoln Center’s, the ballet’s permanent home, Read said.

“It’s been a long connection, and they have people with memories long enough to value that,” she said. Continued...

Also this season, SPAC will host one of the first events scheduled for this year’s community-wide Saratoga Race Course 150th anniversary season. A free community family picnic with live music and a variety of entertainment will be held Friday, May 24, at SPAC to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Also, Aug. 8, the orchestra will have a special performance of racing-themed music along with a film narrated by Tom Durkin, New York Racing Association’s popular track announcer.

Chief Financial and Operating Officer Richard Geary said SPAC is off to a fiscally healthy start in 2013, with investments totaling $5 million — about $400,000 more than this time last year. Funds invested with Fenimore Asset Management Inc. have had 11- to 12-percent gains, he said.

In addition, income for 2013 is about $300,000 ahead of last year.

“For the first two months, the balance street looks very strong,” Geary said.

However, some sponsors and higher-end SPAC members haven’t made firm commitments yet, reflecting a still somewhat uncertain economy.

“This year, people are taking longer to make those decisions,” said Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director. “I’m very optimistic, but we always have to be cautious.”

The board dealt with several other items Thursday, including the following:

• Jane Wait of Saratoga Springs and the late jazz legend Dave Brubeck will be given stars on SPAC’s Walk of Fame. Wait and her late husband, Newman “Pete” Wait, helped lead the effort that founded SPAC. She will be honored during the community-wide picnic May 24. The date for Brubeck’s star placement will be announced in the near future.

• In capital improvements, a new rubberized-type material will replace an aluminum cover over the 436-foot-long electric cable trench inside the amphitheater. The new material is safer for pedestrians and less noisy when walked on. Continued...

Also, a new awning will be placed over the Hall of Springs’ main entrance, and its jazz bar will get a new roof.

• A more user-friendly website was unveiled. To see the changes, go to

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

saratoga racetrack's 150th celebrations is underway with help from the fabulous, marylou whitney.

Saratoga's grande dame, Marylou Whitney, helps unveil plans for 150th anniversary of Spa City racing

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — When Marylou Whitney comes to town, summer can’t be far behind.

The “Queen of Saratoga” aptly picked a Whitney horse named Top Flight — drawn completely at random — that will forever bear the lead position on a new Hoofprints Walk of Fame honoring the best equine athletes ever to compete at Saratoga Race Course, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Plans call for unveiling the attraction early this summer outside the track’s clubhouse entrance. The inaugural class features 30 horses whose careers spanned the track’s entire history, starting with one named Kentucky that captured the first-ever Travers Stakes in 1864.

A selection committee originally planned to select 20 horses, but found the task too daunting.

“There’s just so much history,” said John Hendrickson, Whitney’s husband. “There are so many greats that have raced here. To do 20, we’d have to a lot of greats to catch up with.”

MORE: Click here for the full list of inductees to the Saratoga Hoofprints Walk of Fame

More than 100 people turned out at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, where the new Walk of Fame was announced. It’s one of 180 special events and observances planned for this year’s 150th anniversary celebration.

“This is embarrassing,” Whitney said, smiling, after picking Top Flight’s name from the silver Whitney Cup.

“What’s embarrassing?” asked Tom Durkin, master of ceremonies and the track’s long-time announcer.

“It’s a Whitney horse,” Hendrickson said. Continued...

“Do we have 29 on there that aren’t?” said Durkin, prompting a round of good-natured laughter.

Whitney and Hendrickson are honorary co-chairs of the Saratoga 150 Committee. The couple wintered at their Palm Beach, Fla. home and after a brief stay in the Spa City will be headed to Kentucky for next month’s Keeneland meet, followed by the May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Whitney, looking fit as ever, wore a signature pink jacket, matching button-down vest and Saratoga-style hat with a string of white pearls set against a black blouse to go with black slacks.

She gave a special invitation to another 150th anniversary activity, a Marylou Floral Fete, scheduled for Friday, Aug. 2, on the eve of the Whitney Handicap.

The event hearkens back to the Spa City’s Victorian era and will feature a horse-drawn antique carriage decked out in flowers, heading from North Broadway to Congress Park where an old-time ice cream social is planned.

“Everyone’s invited at the (Canfield) casino,” Whitney said. “That will be something. We’re looking forward to showing the public a good time.”

She briefly recalled her first visit to Saratoga Springs with her late husband, Cornelius C.V. “Sonny” Whitney, in 1958.

“The town was absolutely dead,” she said. “You could throw a baseball or football down the middle of Broadway and not hit someone.”

Whitney said that Sonny challenged her to “Do something!”

She told him, “Sonny, with your money I could do anything.” Continued...

Ever since, she has contributed to Saratoga Springs in many ways and now she and Hendrickson are leading preparations for the biggest birthday bash the city has ever seen.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

congressman tonko promises to help save the ballet restore new york city ballet longer season at SPAC.

Friendly audience greets Tonko in Saratoga Springs

Federal budget conflicts, ballet topics at forum

Saturday, March 9, 2013
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Congressman Paul Tonko's Town Hall meeting at Saratoga City Center on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Congressman Paul Tonko's Town Hall meeting at Saratoga City Center on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
— The new congressional representative for Saratoga Springs was grilled on sequestration, the New York City Ballet, energy and how he gets such good seats for the State of the Union presentation during a town hall forum Saturday afternoon.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, spoke for about 20 minutes at the Saratoga Springs City Center before taking questions from the crowd of about 50, mostly supporters and local Democrats.
There was a lot of applause during the event and only one hostile moment, when a heckler highlighted the fact that the Citizens United case allowed unions the same spending freedoms as corporations. The case eliminated many political spending restrictions for corporations and unions and gave them many of the same powers as a person.
The crowd approvingly listened to Tonko talk about capping the pay for executives benefiting from government contracts, utilizing clean energy and efficient technology, balancing the budget with a progressive tax code and limiting the availability of high-capacity magazines for guns.
Multiple questioners asked about the sequester, specifically how it would impact Head Start programs and federal employees. Tonko said he would support restoring funding of Head Start, which will have about 4,300 spots cut in New York as part of spending reductions by the sequester. Responding to a federal worker worried about being furloughed, Tonko lamented the potential pain this will cause for families across the country and after the forum recommended the woman contact New York’s two U.S. senators.
Louise Goldstein, who has been involved with the Save the Ballet movement at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, informed Tonko about the gradual decrease in performances locally by the ballet. She noted how the residency used to last three weeks and is only scheduled for one week this summer. SPAC’s financial limitations have forced the shortening of the ballet visit.
After waxing poetically about the importance of the arts he promised to get involved with the company’s residency at SPAC.
When asked about his seating for recent State of the Union addresses, where Tonko has been very visible during the entrance of President Barack Obama, he revealed that for the most recent speech he was about the first one to arrive.
The meeting concluded with a question from Wilton resident Raymond Brzozowski, who was wearing a red AARP shirt, with a few other similarly dressed people. He decried the lack of products made in America, specifically frying pans, which all seem to be made in China based on his limited recent search. “No frying pans in the United State,” Brzozowski said, asking why this was.
Tonko told him the lack of American manufacturing stemmed from the country’s failure to emphasize this industry. He supports legislation to foster American manufacturing, even though it might not be the products the nation traditionally made in the 20th century.
Before leaving the stage, Tonko addressed the situation referenced by the heckler, who had since left the forum. Tonko argued that the rights granted unions by the Citizens United decision are starkly different from corporations, on the basis that union political spending represents the will of the collective group and corporations are driven mostly by a small cadre.
Because of redistricting, which went into effect for the 2012 election, Tonko's district now includes all of Schenectady and Albany counties and parts of Saratoga, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.


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Sunday, March 10, 2013

please save these spa buildings Governor Cuomo like you did the Capital in Albany.

Spa park structures face decay

Stately bath houses vacant or underutilized

Saturday, March 9, 2013
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Old Roosevelt Baths in disrepair in the Saratoga Spa Park.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Old Roosevelt Baths in disrepair in the Saratoga Spa Park.
— Pieces of colorful history are falling apart in and around the city.
While several buildings and venues in the 2,500-acre Saratoga Spa State Park have been renovated in recent years, a few stately, historic buildings remain vacant or under-used, some in decay.
What will become of the buildings isn’t clear. Officials with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation say they’re discussing improvements, but would not provide The Gazette with details.
The biggest property is the Roosevelt Bath House No. 2, which stands vacant just south of the park administration building on Roosevelt Drive. The building, opened in 1935, is a mirror structure of the renovated, popular Roosevelt Baths & Spa operated by the Gideon Putnam Resort.
The larger Lincoln Baths on South Broadway in Saratoga Springs, once an enormous mineral water bath facility with hundreds of water therapy tubs, is used for the state court’s 4th Judicial District administrative offices, state Court of Claims offices, and the state park police but still has about 11,000 square feet of empty space on its upper floors.
The most recent Spa State Park master plan, in 2009, says the first priority is the renovation of the Lincoln Baths building, with plans then including its conversion into a visitor center and mineral water museum. The vacant wings of the Lincoln building would be renovated for lease.
The second priority was renovation of the long-empty Roosevelt No. 2 bath house into park offices, an education and interpretive center and public restrooms.
Alane Ball Chinian, executive director of the Saratoga-Capital Region District of the state parks system, said discussions are very preliminary.
“In addition to master plan recommendations, we’re exploring opportunities to expand park services into the Lincoln and Roosevelt bathhouses, such as a partnering with providers of health and wellness services,” Chinian said in an email.
“This park has a rich history steeped in the healing properties of the mineral waters found here. A renewed appreciation of the healing arts is sparking new possibilities to sustain these impressive historic structures for the future,” she wrote.
Roosevelt’s push
The Saratoga Spa State Park, with the encouragement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was built during the Great Depression, its construction funded by federal New Deal money.
The Lincoln Bath House was opened in the late 1920s, before the Depression, but the two Roosevelt bathhouses, with private mineral bathrooms, were part of the 10-building complex built during the early- to mid-1930s.
Today, the vacant Roosevelt bath house No. 2 has paint peeling off its doors and windows and rust shows through the ornate doors, screens and window frames. Through the front entrance doors and windows, you can see the beautiful marble floor with an inlaid circular design, but the floors are dusty and dirty. A large glass chandelier with some of its bulbs missing hangs above the foyer.
The exterior covered marble walkway that extends across the front of the building has plaster peeling from its interior ceiling although much of the brickwork appears in relatively good condition.
The condition of Roosevelt No. 2 is in stark contrast to the Roosevelt Baths and Spa (originally bath house No. 1) across the way. That building was renovated and reopened in 2004, then renovated again, to the tune of $1 million, in 2009 by Delaware North Inc. The marble floors shine, the foyer is inviting and bright, and the 42 reconditioned mineral water bathtubs in private rooms are a popular attraction to people staying at the Gideon Putnam Resort in the park as well as residents of the Capital Region.
Julia Stokes, who was executive director of the Saratoga-Capital Region District of state parks from the late 1980s and through the 1990s, said the No. 2 Roosevelt Bath House has had many uses over the years. “They tried almost everything in that building,” Stokes said.
During and shortly after World War II the bathhouse was used as a veterans’ rehabilitation facility. Later it housed offices and workshops, but it has been empty for at least 20 years.
A portion of the hallways in Roosevelt No. 2 were used in scenes for the 1998 movie “The Horse Whisperer,” directed by and starring Robert Redford, Stokes said.
Commenting on the Lincoln Bath House on South Broadway, Stokes said the exterior of the building was restored in the mid-1990s but there was always a problem with that building’s flat roof that required regular maintenance.
She said during her long tenure as deputy state parks commissioner, millions of dollars were spent on the aging infrastructure at the sprawling park.
The park’s landfill was closed, extensive water line improvements were made along with improvements to the roads, picnic areas, golf courses and other park buildings and venues.
Over the years, the old park mineral water bottling plant was turned into the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Spa Little Theater in the park administration building was been renovated as were the Hall of Springs, the Peerless Pool, the Victoria Pool, the Gideon Putnam Hotel, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The park master plan focuses on the under-used buildings in the park, among its many recommendations.
Wish list
Heather Mabee, chairwoman of the Saratoga-Capital Region Parks Commission, said renovating the Roosevelt Bath House No. 2 and the Lincoln Bath House is something her group would love to see happen. The commission is made up of unpaid, appointed members who advise the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on projects and issues affecting regional parks and historic sites. Mabee said the holdup on these projects is finding the money for them.
In recent years, especially after 2008, state funding for parks was reduced because of the recession. In the past two years money for parks has been more abundant.
Mabee said in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget for 2013-14 a total of $90 million has been included for capital projects in parks across the state. The state Legislature has not yet approved the new budget but Mabee is hopeful the capital money for parks will remain and a portion of it will come to the Saratoga-Capital Region District.
Mabee said the regional parks officials and commissioners propose projects but those dealing with health, safety, and needed maintenance come first.
One of the long-vacant buildings on the park grounds is the LaTour House, an 1880s farm home near the state tree nursery and adjacent to a portion of the park’s 18-hole golf course.
Mabee said during her 17 years on the regional state park commission many different uses for the LaTour house have been proposed, including working with the private sector to restore and use the building. But nothing has become of the discussions.
The park master plan recommends that the roof of the LaTour House be repaired and the building mothballed for some future use.
Stokes said the LaTour house was in “really, really rough shape” the last time she saw it. The building’s porches are falling off, the roof is sagging and windows are broken.
“These are projects we would love to do if we had the funding,” Mabee said.
Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Division of Budget, said funding for state parks in Gov. Cuomo’s proposed 2013-2014 budget is basically flat compared to the 2012-13 budget.
A total of $276 million is included in the governor’s budget for state parks as compared to $285 million in the 2012-13 budget. But Martin said the decrease is attributable to bookkeeping details and there is virtually no change in the funding for parks.
Two years ago, state parks were required to make 10 percent spending reductions across the board, putting a financial limit on all but the most needed and basic projects.
Funding for state parks in the 2013-14 governor’s budget is consistent with other state agencies. “It maintains service at the current level,” Peters said.
The proposed budget includes no parks staffing cuts.
The Spa State Park master plan says the implementation of the many plan recommendations “will require the investment of tens of millions of dollars of state funds along with additional funding from other public and private sources.”


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