Local concert hall leaders are starting to feel a boost with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last week that stadiums and arenas may reopen.
Sites with a capacity of 10,000 people or more can reopen at 10% of their capacity from February 23, according to the new guidelines. In the Capital Region, this only applies to the Times Union Center, which has a maximum capacity of 17,500 people. A venue such as the Saratoga Performing Arts Center has a capacity of over 20,000 seats, but it only has 5,200 reserved seats, so the new guidelines do not allow the center to host events, according to SPAC .
However, the new rules are a good sign for places like the Palace Theater.
. . . I think hope is the big word, said Sean Allen, chief marketing officer. As they begin to allow arenas to open. . . you have a feeling that maybe we can look into the not too distant future and see a scenario where we were able to open up as well.
Jon Elbaum, executive director of Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, agrees.
Obviously this is not affecting us at the moment; I think it shows we were on the road to reopening for all of us, Elbaum said.
Allen expects the palace, which has fewer than 3,000 seats, to be part of the next wave of venues to open, although there is still a lot to be understood before that happens.
I think there is still a lot of work to be done. I can tell you from our side, and the places we talk to each week that are local, we are working on a back-end plan for reopening, making sure everything is safe, how to handle social distancing, but so many this one also falls under the question mark of when we can reopen [and] how much will things have changed by then, Allen says.
Under arena reopening guidelines, venues and events must obtain approval from the New York State Department of Health. Spectators and staff must test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the event. Contact tracing will be in place, along with social distancing measures and temperature checks.
Even when smaller venues are allowed to reopen, there is also a question of economy behind events with limited capacity.
I understand theaters are limited to 10% of their capacity, which would mean 44 spectators [members] in the small theater, 98 in the larger theater, said Peter Lesser, executive director of The Egg. I don’t think it would be practical from an economic point of view and [Im] I don’t know if the audience is ready to go inside yet. The performances currently planned for spring move to fall or 2022.
Allen is hopeful that by the time venues like the Palace are allowed to open, that percentage of limited capacity may be a bit higher. However, even if it isn’t, there is still a benefit.
Having those percentages is kind of an idea of which direction was going. In addition, aside from publicly announced events, it potentially gives us the opportunity, as we progress, to do other types of smaller events where we could make profit and income solely through the ability to ‘be open in any form, Allen said.
At Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Elbaum doesn’t expect indoor concerts to start until fall.
One of the things that plays a role in our type of programming is that most of the artists are not coming out right now. So while we’ve been able to stay open to significant capacity in a matter of weeks, there’s no one we can really put on the stage, Elbaum said.
However, there is still hope that live and in-person concerts can return this year.
I think I was just excited that 2021 could see concerts live. I think of all of us, whether you work in the company and are ready to go back to work full time or you are just a huge fan and enjoy it as a personal passion, I think everyone is happy to see that maybe it’s something to do well this year to an extent, Allen said.
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