The YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay...

The YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Long Island Ducks baseball team owner Frank Boulton plans to buy back the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore, which has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020.

Boulton and his wife, Karen, bought the 261-seat stadium-style theater on Main Street in 1997 and gifted it to the local YMCA. Financial hardship endured by the theater has prevented operations from resuming, according to the center’s website, an obstacle only exacerbated by the collapse of the theater’s marquee in late September. 

“Unfortunately, we were never able to leverage any of the funding sources around shuttered venues for the theater,” said Anne Brigis, president and chief executive officer of YMCA of Long Island. “I was quoted once saying that we needed a benefactor angel to come forward. And Frank and his wife, Karen, of course, are those angels.” 

Brigis said they hope to close the deal by mid-March. Boulton, who is on the YMCA board of directors, told Newsday he tentatively plans to reopen the performing arts center around late summer or early fall. Boulton did not disclose what he's paying to buy back the center.

Boulton said he has hired a Springfield, Illinois, company to design a new marquee for the building. He highlighted the structure’s Art Deco architecture, a style that originated in the early 20th century with an emphasis on luxury and modernity.

He will still work with the YMCA, he said, and he intends to “widen the bandwidth” of the theater, taking cues from similar venues around the country with potential features such as streaming performances. 

“I grew up and still live in the Bay Shore-Brightwaters area,” he said. “From my standpoint, I've always been very involved in our community. And, you know, I didn't see anybody else coming in to do this. ... I'm willing to do it for my community.”

Donna Periconi, president of the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Chamber of Commerce, said the opening of the Boulton Center was "an important catalyst for the revitalization of Bay Shore."

"In the 1990s, 43% of the businesses on our Main Street in downtown Bay Shore were boarded up. It was a difficult time in our hamlet," she said. "New restaurants and shops began to open around the theater, attracting its patrons. It had an immediate, positive impact on our community."

The Boulton Center for the Performing Arts has offered a range of arts programs and classes since it opened in the early 2000s, including theater productions, concerts, seminars and poetry readings. Construction on the $2 million facility was completed in December 2003, according to the Boulton Center website. 

The theater was constructed within the former Regent Movie Theater, built in the early 20th century. The Regent shuttered in the late 1980s and didn't reopen until it was purchased by the Boultons. 

“It was absolutely vital, vibrant, and really part of a community life,” Brigis said. “How glorious, as we come out of the pandemic, that the doors of the theater will reopen. And everyone who lives on the South Shore and all across Long Island will be able to come back to Bay Shore and see wonderful, high-quality affordable entertainment.”

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