Comedy Center: New day dawns for county

Today, the National Comedy Center, one of the crown jewels of Jamestown’s continued redevelopment opens. We’re not sure there has been a premiere this eagerly anticipated since Lucille Ball herself returned home to Jamestown for the premiere of “Forever, Darling,” in 1956.

Jamestown has, for years, been home to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center and yearly festivals, but the comedy center brings to life Ball’s vision to showcase the power of laughter and original comedy in her hometown. Tom Benson, National Comedy Center chairman, and Journey Gunderson, center executive director, have spent years leading a team to conceive the center, raise millions of dollars, build high-tech exhibits and curate archives and hard-to-find artifacts to turn a former Board of Public Utilities substation and recently renovated former railroad station into a center that pays homage to comedy.

Studies have anticipated 125,000 visitors coming through the comedy center’s turnstiles each year. It can be hard to wrap one’s head around that number, but it has been nothing to see several hundred people downtown when headline performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Lewis Black, Jay Leno, Kevin James and Trevor Noah have performed at the Northwest Savings Ice Arena or Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.

Center officials have shown that comedy can, indeed, be a draw in Jamestown in short bursts. We hope — for the benefit of everyone who has a stake in the future of downtown Jamestown — the popularity of those short bursts translates into a seven-day-a-week stream of visitors who are ready to laugh and to spend their money in Jamestown and Chautauqua County.

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