By Jennifer Farnsworth
As much as Saratoga is famous for its horse racing, it’s equally known for its appreciation of the arts.
The transformation underway at the Universal Preservation Hall is testament to that. According to Teddy Foster, campaign manager for the renovation project, the entire Capital Region will be able to see, hear and feel that appreciation at what is promising to be a unique entertainment venue. It is expected to have a profound effect on downtown Saratoga.
“This hall, that already serves so many through so many events, will be turning into a spectacular theater that will seat 700,” said Foster.
The building will close in June and will most likely not reopen until the fall of 2018, she said, while construction continues
Foster said they have reached 90 percent of their $5.5 million fundraising goal. Four years ago, Foster formed a partnership with Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors Theater in Schenectady to move the project forward. Morris said as renovation happens, Foster will become the director at UPH, with programming, finance, marketing and other administration done by Proctors staff.
The construction project “will create a beautiful performance and community space,” said Morris.
Foster said the space will become a perfect spot for music events and cabaret-type shows. She said adding this element of entertainment to downtown will provide a piece that many are looking for.
“This allows a chance for many to grab a drink or dinner and then be able to walk to a concert or show–all downtown,” said Foster.
Foster said they anticipate the hall to bring in over 65,000 visitors in the first year alone. She said people can expect the same high-quality entertainment they enjoy at Proctors.
“This type of venue, which will be able to be open year-round, has really been the missing piece of downtown Saratoga,” said Foster.
The building is rich in history. Foster said they have worked with the historical preservation society to keep the original beauty and personality of the Victorian-style building. The building first opened in 1871 as a Methodist church. It does not currently have heating, air conditioning or an elevator.
The building hosts events including church services, weddings, community groups and small theatrical and musical shows.
The 12,000-square-feet building has a main hall on the second floor with a white wraparound balcony that both Foster and Morris said will be an advantage for concerts.
“This project will ultimately provide a fantastic spot for the arts as well as help to keep the long term economic status of the city healthy,” said Foster.
Foster the facility will have two full-time employees and six or seven part-time workers. She said they have not made any final decision on who will design or build the project. Bids will be received this month.
On May 18, the hall will host its fifth annual UPH Celebrity Bartender Party, “Shaken & Stirred,” a fundraiser at Saratoga National Golf Club. The event is hosted on the outdoor patio by Mazzone Hospitality and Saratoga National. Food will be provided by Prime at Saratoga National, with music courtesy of DJ Trumastr.