Contractor woes and engineering challenges have made the announced six-month construction plan a (so-far) 17-month experience, with no official grand opening date scheduled. However, "spring 2008" is now named as the general expectation for the unveiling, the project's partnering organizations agree.
Since May 2006 the temporary TKTS ticket outlet, steps away from the once and future location, has been humming along — with two more windows than TDF has offered in the past — in the ground floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel, across the street from the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Theatregoers seeking same-day discount seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows have been served without a moment's interruption since May 2006, and with generally shorter wait periods, observers have said.
"I think anyone who's done any construction large or small — I think there are always elements of construction that are frustrating, and, certainly, it has been challenging, it has been exciting, it has been frustrating," said Victoria Bailey, executive director of the Theatre Development Fund, the not-for-profit performing arts service organization that runs the Times Square booth (and another location downtown).
Rather than dwell on the delay of the $14.5 million island renovation, expansion and booth construction, Bailey foresees the oasis that will rise in the concrete. When the new island is open, as many as 1,500 people will be able to sit on glowing glass bleachers that are red in color and rise over the booth to offer center-section views of Times Square, facing downtown.
"It's going to change the street level in Times Square and at Duffy Square," Bailey said. In the past, the concrete Duffy Square (named for World War I priest Father Francis Patrick Duffy, who also ministered at a 42nd Street church) just below 47th Street "was only a destination if you were going to the booth — you didn't go there just to go there." She explained the square's renovation vision from the point of view of TDF, her not-for-profit arts organization, which has a mission of developing audiences for the theatre. She said, "I have this fantasy — but I think it will happen — that when you have those steps and you have a place, that people will come just to be there and to sit and to watch [the cityscape]. There will be people who go there who aren't there to buy a ticket who maybe have never thought of buying a ticket to the theatre. I think after they're there two or three times, sitting, they might say, 'We should check that out.' The TKTS booth has always been an entry point for first-time theatregoers. To have that [enhanced] gathering place is only going to be good for the theatre."
Since 1973 the popular spot located on a pedestrian island at 47th Street between the crossroads of the world (Seventh Avenue and Broadway) has served hundreds of thousands of theatregoers seeking affordable same-day-of-performance tickets for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and music and dance events.
The renovation of Duffy Square is a collaboration between the Times Square Alliance, the Theater Development Fund and the Coalition for Father Duffy.
Perkins Eastman architectural firm designed the new, modernist booth and the seating area. It's based on a design competition concept created by two young Australian architects, John Choi and Tai Ropiha.
In coming weeks, glass beams and plates that make up walls and stairs that will rise over the booth are expected to be delivered and installed.
"We're poised on glass beginning to come in," Bailey said on Oct. 9. "Watching the structure go up is going to be very exicting."
TDF operates two booths dubbed "TKTS" — one in Times Square and another at South Street Seaport.
For more information about TDF and its programs, visit www.tdf.og.