Stambaugh Auditorium Looks to Its Origins as It Prepares for Future

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On the afternoon of March 12, Christian pop band Newsboys was warming up inside Stambaugh Auditorium, waiting to play a concert that evening.

Moments later, the coronavirus shutdown went into effect and the concert, for which 1,500 tickets had been sold, was postponed. 

The concert, which has been rescheduled for Dec. 6, was the first of 105 performances, receptions, parties and other events that had to be canceled or postponed at Stambaugh in the ensuing four months.

“This was to have been one of our best years ever,” said Terry Cloonan, board president.

The historic facility was also forced to lay off half of its 18 full-time staff and almost all of its 45 part-timers, and slash its budget by 65%.

There is no telling when Stambaugh, or any concert hall, will reopen but the board of directors and staff are planning for that day – and an even bigger milestone. Stambaugh will mark its 100th anniversary in 2026, and intends to be renovated for the occasion.

Board President Terry Cloonan signs the resolution reaffirming the legacy of Henry Stambaugh and the board’s commitment to preserving the auditorium.

To begin the celebration, the Stambaugh board of directors met Aug. 3 to mark the 100th anniversary of its first meeting on that day in 1920. It was a century ago that the then-new Stambaugh board began to plan the stately auditorium that was finished in 1926 and still stands at the pinnacle of Fifth Avenue hill.

At Monday’s meeting, the board signed a resolution reaffirming its commitment to benefactor Henry Stambaugh’s legacy and his mission to provide a place for “the enjoyment, pleasure, entertainment and education of the community,” they said.

The board has been raising funds for an exterior facelift that would replace the monumental staircase at the Fifth Avenue entrance, clean the exterior walls, and restore and improve the promenade.

It has already raised $2 million toward the $5 million project, with another million pending in the state budget, said JoAnn Stock, development director.

“We hope to break ground in the spring” on the steps,  Stock said.

The board has raised $2M of the $5M project, JoAnn Stock said.

Stambaugh is a member of the National Independent Venue Association, whose members would benefit from the federal $10 billion Save Our Stages Act that would provide grants to independent venue operators. The board has already received money from the federal CARES economic relief plan.

A brief video history of Stambaugh and all of his philanthropical projects was screened at the commemorative board meeting. It is the first of a series of videos that the Stambaugh staff will produce for social media as the centennial celebration nears.

Stambaugh, who died in 1919, provided land or money in his will for several Youngstown-area institutions, among them Camp Stambaugh Boy Scout Camp in Canfield and the Stambaugh Golf Course.

Matt Pagac, chief executive and operating officer of the facility, pointed out that the board finds itself in a similar situation as it did when it first met.

“It’s interesting to note that just over 100 years ago, the world was recovering from another pandemic,” Pagac said, referring to the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920.

“In many ways, a period of difficulty and sadness led to the effort of Henry Stambaugh to help the community he loved, which made Stambaugh Auditorium and many other Youngstown institutions possible,” Pagac said. “The struggles we face today will be overcome by opportunity and innovation both here at the auditorium and through the city that Henry loved.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.