February 14, 2001

Bailey Renovations Delayed

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Bailey Hall will have to wait longer than expected before it gets a face lift.

Renovation was expected for 2002, but recent University talks have speculated that the building will close for renovation during the 2003-2004 academic year and re-open in fall 2004 instead.

Meanwhile, the State Street Theater in downtown Ithaca will celebrate its grand-opening in 2001, promising available space for Cornell’s performing arts groups while Bailey Hall undergoes renovation.

Two phases have been established for the State Street Theater, according to Scott Whitham ’90 of Historic Ithaca. The first phase will involve opening the theater’s doors by December 2001. Phase two will further enhance the facility, turning it into a state-of-the-art performance space.

Funding for the theater comes from capital grants from the New York State Council of Arts and the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency.

“Following more than a million dollars in grants with only a near $300,000 left to raise in the next few months, we plan on opening with a performance from either a local performing arts group or a nationally recognized band,” Whitham said. “We are hiring a designer next month to put together December’s grand opening,” he added.

Historic Ithaca has put the money towards fixing the theater’s roof and updating the electrical code, fire warning systems and the boiler system. Whitham said that more cleanup is necessary, but that the general structure will closely resemble the theater most people remember.

The second phase of the restoration will include major renovations, preservation and aesthetic work. “We are interested in bringing the theater’s performance capabilities up to the modern age, with new sound systems and performance space over the next few years,” Whitham said.

The theater will attract performing arts organizations from both Ithaca College and Cornell University. Various Cornell music groups have expressed their interest in using the 1,600 seat theater, such as the Cornell Concert Series, which hosts bands, trios and music groups each semester. The Cornell Wind Ensemble and the Cornell Concert Commission (CCC) have also looked into using the space.

Richard Riley, manager of CCC said, “It is a most interesting option. We do plan on using the state theater; the timing is still subject to when Bailey begins renovation.”

John Wiseman ’02, executive director of the CCC, says that the organization has been discussing the issue a great deal and is working on finding a few possible venues while Bailey Hall is closed.

“We may seek out Lynah Rink while hockey is not in session. The Cornell theater arts department, the Statler Auditorium, the Ramin Room in the Field House and Barton Hall also are under consideration,” Wiseman added.

“The Ramin Room, for example, would need a stage added to it in order to accommodate performers. We are interested in finding the most established venue and for that reason, are excited about the possibility of utilizing the State Theater,” Wiseman said.

The state theatre opened in 1928 as a theater and later served as a vaudeville house. It sits at its original location in Ithaca.

Making the space available to Cornell is part of the new relationship between the City of Ithaca and the University, according to Whitham. The partnership is expected to buttress town-gown relations between Cornell and the downtown district.

“It is a win-win situation for both sides,” Whitham said.

Historic Ithaca formed in 1966 as a means to buy, store and own structures of historical significance in Ithaca. Since its creation, the organization has restored and preserved thousands of structures while conserving the attractiveness of downtown Ithaca.

“The state theater will serve as a cultural and economic engine for revitalization here in Ithaca,” Whitham said.

Archived article by Chris Westgate