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New Balcony Seats Installed at Shea's

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Shea's Performing Arts Center has unveiled brand new seating in the balcony section. The project is part of an on-going restoration project of the historic theater in downtown Buffalo.

Fifteen-hundred new state of the art seats were installed this summer at Shea's. It is part of a project to replace all theater seating that will cost just over $1 million. But the state is providing 100 percent of the funding.

Senators Mary Lou Rath and Dale Volker played a major roll in securing the dollars. Volker says it was crucial to get the funds in place quickly because the state's fiscal outlook is not good.

"One of the reasons why Mary Lou and I were so concerned to get this done right away, and I'll be very candid with you, is we are not looking at a fun year next year," Volker said. "If we don't get this now, things could be very, very tough."

The new balcony seats are wider with more leg room to provide comfort for patrons.

Shea's president Tony Conte says some original end panels were discovered in the attic of the theater allowing the seats to be restored to the original look of when the theater opened in 1926.

"We took them into our restoration shop and began to try to clean them. We discovered they were black, but it wasn't paint it was dirt and dust. In fact, as we very carefully cleaned one of them and discovered under all that dirt and dust was an original, untouched end panel that had all original colors," Conte explained. "So then we had a pattern to work from and knew exactly what they looked like."

Conte says the rest of the seats will be replaced next summer. He says Shea's is also trying to line up more funding to begin other theater restoration. Conte predicts that will cost $8 to $10 million.

But for now, the burgundy velvet balcony seats are ready for a brand new fall season. West Side Story opens this Tuesday.