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A rendering of the design for the expansion of the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center on Webster Street in North Tonawanda.
A rendering of the design for the expansion of the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center on Webster Street in North Tonawanda.

$250,000 from NY says: 'Long live the Riv!'

Fri, Aug 25th 2023 11:00 am


Assemblyman William Conrad announced $250,000 in state funds will go to the Riviera Theatre to kick off a capital expansion project.

He said the state funds will be used as a challenge grant to be matched by public donations when the capital campaign kicks off Sept. 1 for the theater at 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda.

Conrad was joined at the news conference by Board Chairman Larry Denef, Executive Director David Fillenwarth and other board members. The announcement was made in the new expansion space, which is currently being renovated. 

“The Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center is a nearly century-old jewel of North Tonawanda’s downtown and driver of our region's tourism. And so, I'm pleased to share that I've secured $250,000 in state funding to match public donations and help usher in a new era for this cultural treasure,” Conrad said.

He explained the capital expansion project “will bring to completion an expansion to reconfigure space and add restrooms, dressing rooms, bars and a patio, a merch store, and more.”

Long live the Riv!” he said, using a phrase he said his staff coined for the Riviera fund drive.

“We talked about placemaking. We talked about this community – about bringing people here to know the Tonawandas. A lot of the ticket sales and folks that come here are from out of the area. This is a big part of tourism. It’s a big part of economic development. It’s a big part of North Tonawanda,” Conrad said.

“So, thanks to the capital upgrades here, the Riviera’s enjoyability and functionality will be enhanced and the space will be more accommodating for more larger events, which will draw more larger crowds, and from here and beyond, and the beautiful downtown in North Tonawanda will, of course, benefit.”

Fillenwarth had a nice note for the many fans of music at the Riv: “In the six years I’ve been here, we’ve accumulated a collection of autographed guitars from the artists that have performed here, and we’re going to have a guitar wall that’s going to display all those autographs. It should be quite a sight and an attraction.”

He added, “The vibrant activity that’s going on in North Tonawanda and the Tonawandas – it’s a destination now to come here. Restaurants are full. The bars are hopping with people laughing and music playing. It’s just so much activity going on. And this project is going to ensure that the continued growth of the Tonawandas continues.”

“We’re excited and we can’t wait for Sept. 1 to kick off the campaign,” Fillenwarth said. “The whole concert experience here is going to be greatly improved for all our patrons.”

From left, Assemblyman William Conrad, Riviera Theatre Chairman of the Board Larry Denef and Executive Director David Fillenwarth gather for the announcement that the theater has received a $250,000 challenge grant from the state to kick off its capital campaign drive. (Submitted photos)

The marquee of the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center at 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda.

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