COHOES — City Council terminated contracts with both Cohoes Music Hall and Park Playhouse on Tuesday, April 28.
The decision dealt a blow to an arts and music scene that used the historic playhouse as a quality venue able to attract crowds of up to 450 people. But, a silenced Cohoes Music Hall will likely cause substantial ripples across a city that just started to pull itself up from years of financial hardship.
Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler had repeatedly said that the city can no longer support the two contracts. It’s “not financially sustainable,” he said.
Voiding the contracts, which each had two remaining years on their respective agreement, would have cost Cohoes approximately $200,000 in 2020. The Music Hall was to receive a $90,000 management fee this year, and in turn, the city would receive $2.50 for each ticket sold. Last season, the city received $38,000.
A revitalized Cohoes Music Hall has been the centerpiece to the Spindle City’s rehabilitation. A $10.7 million reconstruction of Cohoes Boulevard helped welcome visitors to the city from Albany and other points south. The Lofts at Harmony Mills was one of several housing developments within the city’s limits. It had converted a former cotton mill along the Mohawk River into more than 300 luxury apartments. And the traffic on Remsen Street was restriped to slow the flow of traffic in front of struggling restaurants and businesses that looked to the success of its neighboring music hall.
Cohoes Music Hall has been shuttered by a statewide shutdown first implemented in mid-March. The shutdown was imposed upon all gathering halls and was later extended to restaurants, bars and shopping malls.
The shutdown of restaurants, bars and retail stores leaves municipalities across the board without income from sales tax. According to New York state, counties outside of New York City are projected to lose a combined $2 billion in revenue from sales tax this year.
Since its reopening, Cohoes Music Hall has been the home to various theater groups, comedy shows, and live concerts. Its grand opening was on Nov. 23, 1874, establishing it as the country’s fourth oldest music hall in operation.
The Park Playhouse, which uses Cohoes Music Hall as its base of operations, also had its contract cut. With the voided contract and pandemic related restrictions still in order, it further leaves the production house in limbo on what should be its 32nd season.
The Park Playhouse has been a summertime staple in the local arts scene since it was founded in 1989. It has since called Washington Park home, producing shows on the lake house stage. The stepped amphitheater seats 1,500 people, with shows often teeming with patrons on blankets and lawn chairs around it on a warm, summer evening.
At the cancelation of “Evita” Park Playhouse Director Owen Smith expressed his hope that the company would still salvage its season. The late summer production of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda: The Musical” for the park and shows planned for Cohoes Music Hall and Canal Square Park had all remained on the schedule.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.
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