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Studio Arena staging a comeback Theater could reopen this fall after sale produces new ownership with big plans

The curtain could go up as early as this fall at the former Studio Arena Theatre on Main Street.

A foreclosure sale Tuesday resulted in new ownership of the building and plans that will allow the structure to continue to operate as a working theater.

Standing in front of the darkened theater at a news conference Tuesday, Ross Eckert, president of 710 Main Street, announced that the recently formed nonprofit organization is the new owner of the building.

The 710 Main Street organization's $2.1 million bid was the only offer for the property.

Eckert said 710 Main Street is partnering with Shea's Performing Arts Center, which will handle the new theater's management and operations, to bring live theater back to the site.

Anthony Conte, president of Shea's, said programming would come from local and regional theaters as well as touring productions and college theater departments.

"It is our intention to have something on stage for Curtain Up," he said at the news conference. "Yes, the lights will be on again at 710 Main St."

"What a wonderful day for Buffalo theater," said Robert Brunschmid, president of the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo. "I'm so pleased. We'll have one more treasure in the cultural community of Buffalo."

Randall Kramer, president of the board of the Arts Services Initiative and spokesman for the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance, said Tuesday's events were good news not just for the theater community, but for Western New York's arts community and the entire region.

"It's an exciting day for theater, but also for the arts in Western New York," he said. "It's been a long journey, but one that's clearly been worth it."

According to a Shea's spokesman, when Studio Arena Theatre declared bankruptcy in 2008, its only asset was the building and contents, which were mortgaged to a consortium of five banks: HSBC, M&T, First Niagara, KeyBank and Bank of America. Last fall, the group of banks contributed their mortgage interest to 710 Main Street Inc., which paved the way for Tuesday's foreclosure sale.

The successful bid was $2,056,573, which represents the total value of the outstanding mortgages. The building was deeded to 710 Main Street in satisfaction of those mortgages.