Big Top Chautauqua Plans For Future!
Starting in 2017, the Big Top Board, Staff and Advisors started planning for capital improvements for the Big Top’s facility and growth needs. While the plans have had several updates since that time, our path has been led by the findings of the Feasibility Study conducted in 2018. The study laid out the following recommendations:
- Work with Mt. Ashwabay on a partnership to keep Big Top in its current location
- Find a temporary solution to the problem of the deteriorating tent
- Renovate the new offices, event space and retail center on Hwy 13 as soon as possible
- Increase the capacity of Board and Staff to prepare for a major capital campaign that provides the long term solution for the venue, addressing patron safety, accessibility, technology, comfort and growth
Something's Different at Big Top!
When you arrive at the Big Top grounds, expect to something a little different: a new structure, arching like an umbrella over the tent.
Umbrella is a great way to describe it, because while it looks like a modernized version of the tent, the benefit patrons may appreciate most over the season is that it offers much better protection from the weather. No more ponchos or wet seats in the tent!
Behind the scenes, the main reason the structure is in place is to preserve the canvas tent to give Big Top more time to determine what will be the permanent solution to the obsolescence of canvas tents.
At Big Top Chautauqua, there is nothing more iconic than the Big Top itself. People familiar with Big Top know it for its great acoustics and the intimate, country setting of the performances. Big Top’s canvas tents last approximately five years before they need to be replaced due to weathering. As the next replacement comes due, the Big Top community has been wrestling with the knowledge that canvas tents have become obsolete and will no longer be available. This fact, along with other needs that have become more critical as Big Top has grown, has prompted the development of plans for a new, permanent performance structure.
Needless to say, creating a new structure is a large undertaking. Planning, gathering feedback from major stakeholders and the community, and fundraising all take time. But due to the aging of the canvas tent, time was something we simply didn’t have – until now.
New for the 2019 season, Big Top’s traditional tent is still there, but it is encased within a new structure called a Sprung building. As shown in the rendering above, the Sprung structure takes on much of the traditional look of the tent, while at the same time providing a weather-proof shell that can be left in place year-round. Patrons will stay completely dry inside even during rainstorms, and the structure will withstand wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour. Big Top’s traditional canvas tent will be inside of the new structure, completely encased, providing all the acoustic benefits and traditional feel of the tent combined with the protection of the new outer structure.
While the Sprung structure has long-lasting permanent qualities, it is capable of being moved. As such, it is being put in place now to protect the canvas tent so it can be used for several more years, providing a longer window of opportunity for careful planning and decision making on what will be the permanent solution.
We have learned a lot about the new structure’s performance over the 2019 season and look forward to the benefits it will provide. This is a historical step for this great organization!
Features at a Glance: