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Struggling to stay green

Struggling to stay green

Struggling to stay green
Patrons gather on the “lawn” for the opening night of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2018 residency at SPAC, Wed., August 1.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Gazette Photographer

The magic of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center's summer season is in full swing. Between the Philadelphia Orchestra’s residency, the Live Nation concerts, and other special events, it’s drawn in a lot of foot traffic, which has been great for SPAC but tough on the lawn. 
It’s a perennial problem. When the grounds were first designed in 1966, by Vollmer Associates, they were only anticipating the ballet crowds and the orchestra crowds, not those brought in by Live Nation concerts, as the Gazette reported in 2015. The heavy foot traffic has the lawn looking more brown than green and it's just about halfway through the season. 
“Our beautiful park setting is one of our greatest assets as a performing arts venue. However, this also means that we are vulnerable to the damage that can be caused by weather and by hosting regular events on our grounds,” said Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC’s president and CEO.  
“We went through a period where it was really hot and dry,” said Janet Chen, a master gardener at the Schenectady Cornell Cooperative Connection, “Now we have hot and humid weather.”
The danger when it’s hot and dry is that people often cut their lawns too short, said Chen. She recommends grass be around three or four inches tall. But she said what’s happening with SPAC’s lawn is in some ways to be expected with so many people attending the venue nearly every day of the summer season. 
“The lawn [gets] so compacted,” Chen said. 
SPAC works with BrightView Landscape of Schenectady, to seed the lawn, aerate and fertilize the grounds year round. In past seasons, they’ve worked with landscaping companies to lay out 75,000 square feet of sod, which is a mix of soil and matured grass. 
“We have also consulted some of the nation’s top turf specialists to seek ways to make more lasting improvements,” Sobol said. Paving, synthetic grass or other synthetic material is not an option because the venue is in the natural setting of Spa State Park Sobol added. 
Beyond the lawn, SPAC is working on a few other capital projects. 
“We are working with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for long-term solutions to revitalize our venue. Parks recently allocated $1.75 million rehabilitate and upgrade the amphitheater ramps in time for the 2019 season," Sobol said. 
According to Alane Chinian, the regional director for New York State Parks, the ramps are aging and out of code. Those will be renovated, along with the paneling and the lighting. They also plan to address a moisture problem in the balcony, which has caused the paint to peel on the underside of it. 
"We're just excited to be able to do [this]," Chinian said, adding that it will improve the safety along with the experience of attendees.    
Sobol also added that other major capital improvements are in the works for 2020. 

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