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Fate of historic Chautauqua Amphitheater to be decided

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Sometime today, members of the Board at the Chautauqua Institution are expected to make a decision on plans to replace the historic Amphitheater with a 21st Century duplicate.

Usually, arguments at the Institution are intellectual, with generations of the great issues being discussed by some of the greatest minds of their times. Now, it's an argument over the future of one of the central buildings of the old tent meeting site, the historic Amphitheater.

It's old and worn and everyone agrees in need of a lot of work. The controversy though is over whether to replace the building or repair it .

"Our intent is to have a vote on the project," says Chief Marketing Officer George Murphy. "In order for that to happen, a final cost has to be put in place which exists today and the funding required for the project needs to be committed, which is also the case. So, there will be a fairly robust discussion, I assume, and tomorrow there will be a vote, one way or the other, on the status of the Amphitheater."

Brian Berg is chair of the Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater. That group wants extensive repairs on the current building, not a replacement. He says a basic problem is that the board won't say specifically what the problem is with the bids or the estimates on the complete replacement or how the work will be done while maintaining its programs.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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