CAROGA LAKE — The Caroga Arts Collective got a nice surprise at the end of the state’s fiscal year: A $1 million grant toward its amphitheater project at the old Sherman’s Amusement Park.
The grant was the maximum amount among 116 capital awards totaling $20 million announced March 31 by the New York State Council on the Arts. It will help the organization further along its efforts to repurpose the century-old community landmark.
CAC Executive Director MaryKate Farber said Wednesday the grant was a very welcome boost. She said it wasn’t immediately clear why the project received so much assistance — only one other $1 million grant was awarded — but suspects the state’s emphasis on boosting underserved areas might have been a factor.
“We were very pleasantly surprised by the size of the award,” she said. “This is the largest grant we’ve ever gone for.”
The long-term vision for the site is still coming together, as is the fundraising campaign to pay for the vision.
Preconstruction work is expected to begin this year, Farber said, but actual groundbreaking is not likely until 2023.
With a $1 million donation in August 2021 and numerous smaller donations totaling another $1 million or so, the new state grant puts CAC close to its originally stated $4 million goal.
But the goal is a moving target, thanks to the rapidly rising cost of construction materials. A goal and a public fundraising campaign will be announced in May.
“Right now we’re still in the silent phase of our campaign,” Farber said.
The CAC was formed in 2016 when it received donation of a 10.5-acre property known as Myhill a short distance north of Sherman’s on Route 10. It became the owner of the 8-acre amusement park at the end of 2019.
The two are only a quarter-mile apart and the distance is walkable, Farber said. They could essentially function as a single campus.
Phase I at Sherman’s will be construction of a stage and a climate-controlled backstage area along the waterfront. The stage itself will be big enough to seat a small audience during an intimate event.
For larger performances there would be only lawn seating initially, then a raised bank of seats with a sky box at the top. The lawn seating would remain after the fixed seating is built — it’s an essential part of the Caroga experience, Farber said.
Another goal is year-round operation. The old bumper car building at Sherman’s will be the indoor venue in the near term, but better things are envisioned: The century-old dance hall will be renovated and insulated and provide a larger, grander setting.
“We’re excited to be able to revitalize it,” Farber said.
Another goal is sharing the vision within the community to build support for the project and create a sense of involvement.
CAC will be looking for a way to accommodate the vehicles driven by all the visitors they hope to attract.
There is a few acres of open space along Route 10 that’s now used for parking, but it needs to be optimized to fit more cars.
“That will be one of the challenges of the property,” Farber said.