Amphitheater Plans Need An Upgrade

To The Reader’s Forum:

The Chautauqua Institution likes to claim that its “Upgrade Plan” is improving its historic Amphitheater, a structure that has been called our community’s “beating heart.” But as Mr. Shedd, the Institute’s administrator of land regulations and capital projects, admits in The Post-Journal on July 30, what the institute is really planning and moving forward with is a costly campaign for the Amp’s “extensive demolition” and rebuilding it to look historic.

In other words, much of the Amp as we know it today will be torn down, reconfigured with a seating bowl (and stage) that is 15 feet deeper and a roof that is greatly extended – then made to look old. And while you can call that many things, preservation is not one of them. This is not how to mend a beating heart and preserving a National Historic Landmark status.

No one disputes that Amphitheater needs fixing. But there is a world of difference between fixing something, with minimal change to its traditional appearance and creating a facsimile. There are ways to make the necessary renovations at a fraction of the plan’s $33 million cost, fixing what’s broken while maintaining the Amp’s architectural character and integrity. That’s the path we should take.

I would suggest that the Institution take a careful look at the current plans and consider other alternatives.

Don Milks

Chautauqua