From Saratoga Today: 750-seat Venue Targets Fall 2018 Opening

Thank you Thomas Dimopoulos of Saratoga Today for the great article on UPH and our restoration!!  This was originally published on Friday, February 24, 2017.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Galleries, museums and classic architecture. A cinema. Public parks. Taverns, restaurants and cafes. Together they are the elements that contribute to community vibrancy.

But, for the past half-century, one noticeably missing piece in this walkable city has been the lack of a year-round, mid-sized venue – an unfulfilled need since Saratoga’s 5,000-seat Convention Hall was destroyed by fire in 1966.

With an extensive renovation of Universal Preservation Hall set to get underway, that cultural vacancy is set to soon be filled. “This will be an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round and will hold about 750 people,” said Teddy Foster, campaign director at UPH. “There will be a lot of music, Broadway cabaret and live theater.”

The current schedule of events will conclude in five weeks and a $5.5 million renovation of the historic building is slated to get underway in June. When UPH re-opens in the fall of 2018, it will house new heating and air conditioning systems, a kitchen, an elevator and new light and sound fixtures with acoustic treatments.

“It will have everything,” Foster said. The main room’s flexibility will allow for the relocation of seats as events dictate and a community room located on the building’s lower level will hold another 140 people. New entry doors will be set on the building’s Broadway facing-side to provide theater-goers close proximity to a 450-vehicle public parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue.

The Victorian Gothic structure on Washington Street was built in 1871 and served as a Methodist church and a gathering place. Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass and William Howard Taft to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg have each taken a turn atop the main stage during the building’s 146-year history. A century after its construction, the building began to fall into disrepair and the church sat empty for several years. In 2000, the city condemned the building and members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition.

Today, the nonprofit group UPH owns the building and maintains a 21-person board of directors. A local Baptist congregation – which continues to host weekend services at the hall - owns the land on which the church sits. An initial wave of renovation work began in 2003 after $3 million was raised. The current Capital Campaign - The Road To Opening Night – is ongoing and has secured about 90 percent of the $5.6 million it seeks to raise, Foster says. A fundraiser will be held in May at Saratoga National.

In 2015, UPH got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors. The Schenectady based organization will lend their expertise in securing programming and coordinating ticket sales and marketing, in addition to other areas. Proctors was built in 1926 in downtown Schenectady and was one of a dozen vaudeville houses along the east coast of the country. A half-century later, it was among the last standing theaters of a deserted downtown landscape. Like UPH, it also was saved from the wrecking ball.

Last week Proctors’ creative director, Richard Lovrich, and its publicist, Michael Eck, staged a slide show presentation and discussion at UPH based on the release of their new coffee-table book, “Encore: Proctors at 90,” which depicts everything from the backstage application of character makeup for a production of “The Lion King,” to images capturing gracious remembrances of a theater visit by Sophia Loren. It is a narrative of renewal and rebirth, and a tale of a city and a theater taking turns saving each other, the authors say.

After undergoing a transformative restoration of its own, the historic theater today features everything from ZZ Top, this weekend, to the staging of “Hamilton,” during its 2018-19 season. Of UPH, Proctors CEO Phillip Morris says he envisions a welcoming place to gather and a cultural heart of the city.

After the Saratoga Springs venue reopens with its 45-foot-tall ceilings, bell tower and walnut and ash staircases that feed into the main hall, it is anticipated it will stage 200 or so annual events. “I like to say I imagine the hall as Saratoga’s living room,” Foster said.



Saratoga Springs, New York is nationally recognized as one of America’s great destination locations, with attractions including naturally carbonated mineral spas, thoroughbred & harness racing, polo, challenging & picturesque golf courses, a vibrant & walkable downtown with an amazing variety of restaurants, shops & galleries and beautiful regional & national museums. The Spa City boasts a large and eclectic list of upscale hotels, inns, and bed & breakfasts that offer superior wedding venues in a dynamic Victorian City setting.

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Capital District Jazz Presents: CD Release Concert Jazz Guitarists John Stowell & Mark Kleinhaut

Capital District Jazz Presents: CD Release Concert Jazz Guitarists John Stowell & Mark Kleinhaut

On, Dec. 7 at 7:30PM, Capital District Jazz and Universal Preservation Hall invite you to enjoy an evening of jazz guitar wizardry with two renowned jazz guitarists to celebrate the release of their new CD “Cross Country Lines”. John Stowell and Mark Kleinhaut combine their unique styles to produce music of remarkable beauty.


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Sonny Bonacio awarded ChangeMaker Award for 2016

The Capital Region Chamber announced last week that Sonny Bonacio, chair of UPH's Capital Campaign, was awarded the ChangeMarker Award for 2016.  Sonny Bonacio, President of Bonacio Construction, was honored as this year's ChangeMaker for his contributions in transforming the Capital Region through his vision, investment and leadership.

Beatles Tribute at UPH with Across the Pond

Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs presents ‘Here Comes The Sun: An Evening of Beatles Music and Dancing’ featuring tribute band ‘Across The Pond’ on Saturday March 12 at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $20 and are available at the door and online at  The event is 21 and over with a cash bar.  Chris Cronin of Let’s Be Leonard opens the show.  Proceeds will benefit the UPH restoration effort.  

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UPH recipient of Richard W. Wilson Challenge Grant

UPH is happy to announce the acceptance of a challenge grant from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.  This grant was made possible by the Sacred Sites Program managed by the Landmarks Conservancy, which works to fund restoration projects throughout NYS of historic religious properties.

For more information, please contact Mary Beth McGarrahan, Operations Manager, at (518) 584-2627 or