JAMESTOWN – The National Comedy Center is open for business.
The state of the art, $50 million facility opened its doors to the public for the first time on Wednesday, immediately after a ribbon cutting ceremony was held featuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo along with other local and state officials as well as representatives of the NCC.
Prior to cutting the ribbon, Gov. Cuomo explained the history behind the NCC and why it’s located in Jamestown.
“In the 1980s the [Arts Council for Chautauqua County] went to Lucille Ball and said, ‘you know we’d like to do a Lucille Ball Comedy Center in Jamestown.’ And she said, ‘look, I think you should think bigger, and not just about Lucille Ball. It should be a national center for the art of comedy. Because that’s what comedy is, and it should celebrate the art, and it should be about not just one person, Lucille Ball, it should be about a national center for the art,'” explained the governor.
And that started a long, long journey. The governor also explained how the NCC will serve as a catalyst for tourism in Jamestown and the Chautauqua Region, helping to inject much needed tourism revenue into the local economy.
“Tourism has been a phenomenal industry and a phenomenal growth industry. Over 240 million visitors, the state hit a new record in terms of tourism. It’s up 20 percent in the amount of income that we’re generating. It’s now an over $100 billion industry in the state of New York. So it really is big business. It’s over $550 million now for the Chautauqua-Allegany area alone. And I think this is going to take those numbers and bring them to a new level. And it’s not just the comedy center. It’s the combination, it’s the synergy within new hotels that have been done, with river walk, with the Jamestown Downtown Redevelopment Initiative.”
Joining the governor was Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, who acknowledged that the successful opening of the NCC is rooted in hard work and dedication of the project’s many stakeholders who refused to take “no” for an answer.
“A friend of mine once told me there are a thousands reasons why a deal doesn’t happen, and one reason why it does. And that’s because somebody or a group of somebodies as taken care of all the thousand things that can go wrong, address them, and then make the project move forward and go right. That’s the story not only of the National Comedy Center over the past 33 years, but also what’s been happening in Jamestown.”
The NCC is supported by over $14 million in resources from the state, including $4.4 million awarded through a competitive, community-driven process with the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council; an additional $5 million through the Buffalo Billion II initiative; $5 million via New Markets Tax Credit Program; and other state sources. It is expected to attract more than 114,000 visitors each year and give a $23 million boost to the local economy annually, while also sparking further economic development and helping to improve the economic environment in the region.
The NCC is anticipated to support over 200 jobs and generate $6.5 million in wages annually across Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties.
As part of its grand opening, the NCC is presenting a week-long celebration of comedy performances and dialogues to commemorate the grand opening, which coincides with the annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, featuring more than 50 events including appearances by comedy greats such as Amy Schumer, Lewis Black, Lily Tomlin, Fran Drescher, and original Saturday Night Live cast members Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman.
Highlighting Thursday’s activities are the sold out “Comedy and the First Amendment” panel discussion at the Robert H. Jackson Center focusing comedy legend Lenny Bruce and featuring Bruce’s daughter Kitty Bruce, noted first amendment attorney Paul Cambria and Lewis Black.
Also Thursday night at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts is the Saturday Night Live Originators: Hazy Recollections program featuring original SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and Loraine Newman.
And there’s also late night Comedy at the Tropicana Room inside the Lucy-Desi Center.
For more information on the Comedy Festival and National Comedy Center, visit ComedyCenter.org.