The Chautauqua Amphitheater — the “Amp” — functions as our community’s most important place for assembly around arts, culture, and worship. Over its 140-year history, most of the Amp’s parts — except for the Massey Memorial Organ and its house — have been built up, torn down, repaired, replaced, and remodeled. What we see today is the result of decades of changes, and Chautauqua Institution intends to renew the Amp to meet the community’s needs for the next 100 years.
Plans for a renewed Amp are the subject of much discussion and even debate. To put these plans and the dialogue into perspective, it is important to remember the reasons for an Amp renewal project.
December 30, 2015
I am pleased to tell you that today, Chautauqua Institution’s Board of Trustees took a vital step towards Chautauqua Institution’s future, when it voted to move forward with our Amphitheater renewal project.
The Board vote authorized the Institution staff to award the construction contract to LPCiminelli, Inc., of Buffalo, who will serve as the project’s construction manager. The Trustees’ approval follows a successful effort by our Amphitheater project team of internal staff and external consultants to deliver a final project cost of $41.5 million, including contingency funds for any changes which may occur during construction. The entire cost of this project is funded by committed philanthropic dollars.
The renewed Amp will be a state-of-the art facility that ensures safety and accessibility for all Chautauquans and guests. It includes an expanded bowl and roof structure, ADA-compliant accessibility, an enlarged stage area, a 100-musician orchestra pit, and a new back-of-house structure. Most importantly, this Amphitheater will meet our strategic and program goals in their entirety.
The final design approved by the Board honors the Amp’s important historic role by maintaining the look and feel of the original structure. When you step into the Amp in the summer of 2017, you will see the many improvements, and you will still know you are in Chautauqua’s Amphitheater —
just as past generations of Chautauquans have done over the many years of the Amp’s evolution. This design direction has been emphasized by community members throughout our planning, design, and community input process.
Construction will begin in early February and continue in the months prior to the 2016 Chautauqua season. Initial work will include site preparation; infrastructure development; caisson installation; tree and bleacher removal; groundwater diversion; and partial underpinning of the Massey Organ. In addition, a substantial portion of the current back-of-house will be removed, and temporary facilities will be installed prior to the season start.
Be assured that when the 2016 season commences, we will have full use of the Amp facility. Once the coming season ends, work will resume in order to meet our goal of opening our 2017 season with a renewed Amphitheater.
We are incredibly excited to be moving forward with a renewed Amp, and we are very grateful to the generous donors to the Promise Campaign. Entering its final year, we have raised $92.3 million to invest in programming, endowment, the grounds and the Amphitheater. I am humbled by this commitment to the future of Chautauqua.
Jane and I wish you and your families a very happy and healthy New Year.
President, Chautauqua Institution
• A Letter from President Tom Becker about the future of the Amphitheater: Download Tom's Letter (PDF)
• Tom Becker & Jim Pardo address the crowd gathered outside the press conference.
Recording courtesy of Dennis Webster of the Jamestown Post Journal.
Press Conference Video (Held in Smith Memorial Library)
Chautauqua Institution held a series of community engagement sessions on the Amphitheater renewal project. These sessions were designed for listening to concerns and answering questions, and for educating attendees on the current state of the structure, on the history of changes and modifications throughout its 122 years and the Institution’s proposed design.
These sessions ran every week throughout the 2015 season:
The Amphitheater is Chautauqua’s essential place of assembly for arts, culture and worship. Over 140 years, it has been periodically adapted to stand against the wear of time, weather and changing needs.
Goals for this project are:
Increased audience capacity
Improved accessibility, safety, comfort and sight lines
Modernized and increased functionality of back-of-house
1. Approach from Bestor Plaza
2. View just outside Gate 4
3. View from Northern Perimeter
4. View from Western End
5. View from Southern Perimeter
6. View into Bowl from Southern Fence
7. Descent into the Seating Bowl
8. View from the Stage Area
9. View towards Back-Of-House
10. View of Rear Pathway
1. Steel Truss Additions Over Stage
2. Steel Reinforcing and Cross Bracing Added
3. Attic Above Curved Ceiling - Active Work Space
4. Attic Above Curved Ceiling Near Stage - Active Work Area