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Letter: Can escalators be added to help patrons at Amp?

Can escalators be added to help patrons at Amp?

The other day I took a few minutes to check out the progress on the new amphitheater at the Chautauqua Institution. What was an old, historic, impressive structure with thousands of memories dating back to the 1800s is now simply a large hole in the ground, with one structure left standing to protect the priceless organ that is so huge and famous.

I stood there pondering all the turmoil surrounding this building project, when the preservationists were overruled by the institution’s board of directors, which decided to replace, not refurbish, the old Amp. So be it. The wheels of progress need to move forward.

Now, the old Amp had the most uncomfortable seats created by mankind. As a matter of fact, it was an earmark that you were an experienced Chautauquan if you carried your seat pad to all performances. When I would go to a performance, I carried my seat pad, and struggled down the steep ramp to get to the main floor or a few rows above on the side. Since there were no handrails, it became necessary to hold onto the backs of the wooden pews. That was OK, but I felt quite challenged and even fearful of a misstep, which could result in considerable injury. I have some problems with strength in my legs. I noticed many others experiencing the same struggle.

As I understand it, the old pews will be replaced with new pews in the new Amp. That’s fine with me. I’ll simply continue to carry my seat pad.

But as I look at the hole in the ground, I have an idea. It may be coming a bit late, but it deserves consideration. If there is time to implement it, I believe it would help many feel safe and enjoy the performances. Here it is: simply include a couple of escalators to help the handicapped and fearful ride down to and up from the main floor of the Amp in comfort and safety. Gone would be the fear and trepidation.

While the hole in the ground marks a new era, perhaps Chautauqua could make a gesture of consideration for the safety of the old timers who just love the place.

Thomas J. Caulfield


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