The Pines@SPAC, a $9.5 million renovation project at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a world-class arts and culture destination located in Saratoga Spa State Park, was formally opened in late July.
The project improves visitor services and creates new four-season event space.
New York State provided $1.5 million in grants from Empire State Development and State Parks, awarded through the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative. The funding was secured in 2019 and demolition began in October of the same year, with the new facility planned to welcome audiences in June 2020. Additional support was provided by Live Nation.
When SPAC was forced to cancel its 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new spaces in the facility enabled the center to welcome the community to its campus in a safe, socially distanced way. From July to December, 10,000 people, 50 people at a time, came to SPAC for wellness, film, culinary and art-based events.
Saratoga Performing Arts Center President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol said, “Nowhere is SPAC’s transformation more dramatically evident than in the presence of our new Pines@SPAC facility. The project began with the intent to replace aging concessions and bathroom facilities, but quickly expanded its scope to align with our new mission.”
She said the new facilities opened up original site lines, restoring a beautiful park aesthetic to the campus and accommodate SPAC’s growing education program.
“The Nancy DiCresce Education Room serves as our first year-round indoor gathering space. And as part of our role as a communal gathering place, the beautiful Julie Bonacio Family Pavilion has now become the beating heart of our Pines campus. We are grateful to the Governor, Empire State Development, Live Nation and Parks for their generosity and collaboration,” she said.
The project restored park-like aesthetics to the grounds and opened up original site lines from the Route 50 Gate to the Victoria Pool. It provides brand new and vastly expanded restrooms and concessions areas and new measures for safety and security.
The main concession building includes a second-story, offering year-round event space with the Nancy DiCresce Education Room to support and encourage expanded educational programming, audience development and community engagement activities. The exterior facade of the upper level includes a glass and aluminum storefront design, allowing guests to walk out onto a rooftop terrace facing the amphitheater. The enclosed portion of this building provides climate-controlled space for events, and the lobby atrium leading to the second floor features the rich history of SPAC as well as space for revolving displays of local artwork. Currently on display is an exhibition from the Tang Teaching Museum.
The second building added new restroom and concessions facilities, and created more open, useable space to improve guest movement throughout SPAC. Infrastructure systems and utilities were modernized to support the new buildings and surrounding public space. Upgraded pedestrian walkways improve access between the amphitheater lawn and the main plaza and provide easier paths for travel throughout the venue.
In the center of the main plaza a new open-air covered pavilion enhanced the park aesthetic, while restoring the original sight lines from the Route 50 bridge to the Victoria Pool.
“For decades, the Saratoga Spa State Park has attracted visitors from across the state and around the world,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “This project is another major step forward in the renewal of this great park and provides needed renovations to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center that will further cement it as a critical economic and cultural driver in the Capital Region.”
Live Nation Regional President Jimmy Koplik said attending concerts at SPAC “is an essential part of summers in upstate New York. We are grateful for our partnership with SPAC to connect fans with their favorite artists in this spectacular venue. With these tremendous enhancements to the customer experience, we look forward to many more great nights of live music under the stars at SPAC.”
In 2019, State Parks completed a $1.75 million project to renew the SPAC amphitheater’s aging balcony ramps and lighting with an elegant and safe entryway. The new railing system’s contemporary aesthetic better integrates with the amphitheater facade which was upgraded in 2012.
Under NY Parks 2020, more than $18 million has been invested in Saratoga Spa State Park, including modernizing the Peerless Pool bathhouse, a one-mile paved accessible walking trail loop, a new disc golf course, a sensory pollinator garden and accessible, colorful and engaging playground. Other projects include opening the new Creekside Classroom environmental education facility, preserving the park’s historic campus buildings and adding new pavilions, trails and playgrounds.