Weekend incident builds concern for future of Chautauqua Amphitheater

Aug 18, 2015

In the middle of the fight over the future of the Amphitheater at the Chautauqua Institution, a board fell from the ceiling on Sunday.

Credit WBFO News file photo

A three-foot section of wood grazed a patron at a ballet concert. Crews immediately replaced the board and checked for other problems and found none.

"All of a sudden she had the piece of wood in her hand and walking up and we looked up and saw where it fell out of the ceiling," said Linda Ulrich-Hagner, who was in the audience when the board fell.

"I checked with one of the structural guys and he said it was just three feet long and it just came down and hit this woman in the arm. And, then they took her out and the EMTs gave her some kind of medical help."

A ceiling tile fell at the amphitheater on Sunday, grazing a patron.
Credit Brian Berg

Some favor extensive renovation and salvage of the 120-year-old building. Ulrich-Hagner says the building is too old and not compliant with ADA rules.

Institution spokesman Jordan Steves says an inspection found no problem, with a week-and-a-half to go in the season. The ceiling is not attached to the roof so the workers could get in and check the area where the board had been located.

A plan to demolish the landmark and spend $36 million to replace it with a modern duplicate has been the subject of much debate. Steve Davies from the Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater says the building is sound.

"An independent structures report from an engineering firm in New York City hired by the Institution says the Amp is safe and can be stabilized for into well into the 21st Century," said Davies. "A small ceiling board really doesn't justify a $36 million demolition and construction of an imitation replica."