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An artist's rendering of the proposed 4000 seat covered performance structure expected to be the hub of a $40 million performing arts center Alan Gerry will build in Bethel. (Click for larger image) 
'A new beginning for Sullivan County'

Gerry, Pataki announce $40 million arts center

By DAVID HULSE

BETHEL - After years of waiting and speculation, billionaire Alan Gerry revealed his plans on August 29 for a $40 million performing arts center on his properties at the original 1969 Woodstock concert site.

And with that site as a backdrop, New York Governor George Pataki came to Bethel on Tuesday afternoon to tell an expectant crowd of $15 million in state funding towards the project.

Pataki ($7 million), state Senator John Bonacic ($7 million) and Assemblyman Jacob Gunther ($1 million) all were credited, and in turn credited one another for developing portions of the funding grant, which is expected to fund public infrastructure associated with the project that Bonacic described in a statement as "an outstanding public-private partnership."

Gerry is to provide $16 million of his own money, which will be combined with the remaining $9 million expected from private contributions and endowments.

Schematics of the project, to be built on the 1,400 acres Gerry has acquired in recent years, include a covered seating area accommodating 4,000 persons with planned outdoor lawn seating for an additional 15,000. A New York City architectural firm, Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum is now completing the design work and Gerry said two years of construction would begin next spring.

Pataki said the center would be important economically for Sullivan County and that the state would "benefit enormously" as well. He credited Gerry as the driving force without which "none of this would be happening...A lot of us try to do things for our hometowns. No one has done more than you," he told Gerry.

TRR photo by David Hulse
Alan Gerry, Governor George Pataki, Levon Helm of "The Band" and Senator John Bonacic are pictured at Tuesday's announcement ceremony. (Click for larger image)

The Governor appeared particularly pleased to accept drumsticks presented to him by Levon Helm, of "The Band" who performed at the 1969 concert. Helm thanked Pataki for bringing the center to his "backyard," where he said "a lot of us players will find jobs."

Bonacic, too, credited Gerry, saying he has "never seen a man who wears his heart and soul on his sleeve for his county."

Gunther said the center would become "a premier destination" not only for the Catskills but for the state. Setting his long association with efforts to bring gambling to Sullivan aside, Gunther said, "This is the real deal."

Gerry, in turn, thanked everyone involved and stated a simple motive. "It's all about the people and the music. I didn't want to let it die," he said.

Reactions from an audience of about 200 including most of Sullivan's business and government leaders were very positive.

Most of county's town supervisors were in attendance and all saw the spin-off benefits for their town's tax rolls. Bethel Supervisor Alan Scott said "It's the best thing that's ever happened to Bethel ...and Sullivan County."

"It's a new beginning for Sullivan County," said Forestburgh supervisor and visitors association chairman Bill Sipos.


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