SARATOGA SPRINGS – While the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s season technically kicked off earlier this month with graduation ceremonies and some local events, it will be country group Lady Antebellum who will start the concert portion of the season on May 31.
The start to this season will also kick off a two-year celebration of SPAC’s 50th anniversary.
“Last year was an extraordinary year for us, and this year looks to be just as extroadinary,” Marcia White, president of the SPAC board of directors, said last week. “This is the kickoff to the 50th.”
White said there are two big new things at the venue for this season, with the first being construction of new bathrooms near the loading dock. White said it was a necessary upgrade to the shed.
“The facility, like all of us, is aging,” White added.
The other improvement, which is much more major, was that a team of people from the venue, New York State Parks and the Cornell Cooperative Extension took a hard look at the lawn and determined they were going to install an Evergreen blanket.
White said the seeds root deeper and give it a better look.
“It creates a greenhouse effect,” White said. “There is a much stronger root structure and it holds in humidity pretty well. There was a bit of ice and snow damage that we noticed after we took the cover off, but overall it looks pretty great.”
White said the winter weather forced the venue to start preparations in mid-April, which is a little earlier than normal.
The roof at the Hall of Springs also got some work done to fix the damage from the ice this year. White said some signage was fixed and added that Livenation added in two new point of sale spots in the concession area.
For the Lady Antebellum show, White said she expects a crowd of around 13,000 in attendance. June 6 is Fly 92’s Summer Jam, before Dancing With the Stars makes a stop on June 14.
On June 17, however, is the date White has had circled for a longtime. The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company brings its act to town. Lubovitch is billed as one of America’s most versatile and acclaimed choreographers. Prior to the show, he will give a pre-performance talk.
For the 38th straight year, the Freihofers Jazz Festival will return on June 27 and 28. This year, headliners include Frankie Beverly, Cassandra Wilson, Erykah Badu, Sheila E. and Snarky Puppy.
“It’s all about the hand, that’s what we say,” White said. “People come from all over to chill, hang out, see the friends they’ve made over the years, eat great food, hear the music and enjoy the camaraderie.”
White said this is one of SPAC’s biggest events, as people have been coming for the festival since it started all those years ago. She likened it to a big reunion.
“We get a lot of people from downstate, and they’re the ones who fill the restaurants and hotels at the start of the season,” she added. “Then at the end, they make reservations for next year. We’re proud to play such a big role in the economy around here.”
She listed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s June 29 performance, the New York City Ballet’s two-week residency in conjunction with the ballet’s resident choreographer Justin Peck pre-show talk and Ballet 422’s July 13 performance as ones to circle on your calendar.
“Justin Peck sort of grew up in front of our eyes here, so we love that he’s coming back this year,” White said. “He’s one of the hottest commodities in that dance scene.”
On the Livenation side of things, some big names making their way to the venue include Train, Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa, Kid Rock, Tedeschi Trucks Band with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Slipknot, Joe Bonamassa, Nickleback, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire, Counting Crows, the Doobie Brothers and Greg Allman and the Dave Matthews Band.
White said that there is always the possibility of other artists being scheduled, as Livenation does have holds on some other days throughout the summer.
SPAC also employs 450 people throughout the season to work the venue, and hires another 300 contractors to help with the upkeep. White said SPAC has a $2.3 million payroll, and generates more than $100 million annually for the local economy.
White added that there will be a touchscreen kiosk on the grounds and will allow people to filter through and see the history of the venue. WMHT is also working on a documentary for the 50th anniversary.
“This is a very, very special place,” White said. “We are hitting a major milestone worth seeing. We are proud of the support we give the community, and proud of the support the community gives us.”