Opening Act

National Comedy Center Officially Opens Its Doors

From left, State Sen. Cathy Young; Tom Benson, National Comedy Center chairman; Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director; Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and state Assemblyman Andy Goodell; during the ribbon cutting ceremony at the National Comedy Center’s grand opening Wednesday. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

It is finally time to chuckle, giggle and laugh with the city of Jamestown.

Wednesday, the National Comedy Center along West Second Street officially opened its doors to the general public. To welcome the first visitors, state and local dignitaries, highlighted by the appearance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, held an official ribbon cutting ceremony.

Cuomo said the national attraction based on the celebration of comedy has become a reality in the city of Jamestown thanks to the tireless efforts of those involved, especially Tom Benson, NCC chairman, and Journey Gunderson, NCC executive director.

“Journey and Tom, thank you so much for this gift,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said Benson, Gunderson and other state and local officials involved in the process of creating the comedy center are emblematic of the great spirit in all New Yorkers, because they never gave up on the idea of bringing to life Lucille Ball’s dream of a center for the appreciation of comedy in Lucy’s hometown of Jamestown.

The first visitors of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown enter shortly after the doors opened to the public. For more photos, see Page A6. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

“Tom Benson and Journey Gunderson had a dream and they chased it, and they refused to be deterred,” Cuomo said. “They refused to fail.”

Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, said Benson, Gunderson, the NCC board, local foundations and “Team Jamestown,” consisting of city officials and organizations, all worked hard to make the opening of the comedy center a reality.

“They made what was a dream eight years ago a reality today,” he said.

Gunderson thanked Cuomo and other state officials, which included Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development president and chief executive officer, state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, for their investment of more than $14 million in state resources into the $50 million state-of-the-art center.

“We truly would not be here without you,” Gunderson said to Cuomo.

P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Greg Edwards, Gebbie Foundation chief executive officer, said the economic development aspect of the new tourism destination is outstanding, which he highlighted by discussing how the facility has created 35 new jobs in the city. He said the comedy center’s employees are young, energetic and have a complete grasp on the advanced technology that goes into the interactive exhibits that can be experienced at the comedy center. He added that most of the new employees are not from the area. However, he gave an example of how one of the new employees was a former native of the area that was recruited back to Jamestown because of the comedy center.

Goodell said that a special congratulations goes out to Benson and Gunderson and the entire NCC board.

“They have worked for the last eight years, working thousands and thousands of hours to make the National Comedy Center a national, and even international, destination,” he said.

Young said comedy center is one of the most ambitious and imaginative cultural endeavors of our time.

“(It is) Designed to be immersive, experiential and individually-driven. This extraordinary venue will attract more than 100,000 people each year, and delight and amaze every one of them,” she said. “The end result has surpassed our expectations. The National Comedy Center is an economic catalyst for Jamestown and Chautauqua County that will transform the future of this region.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said, in a news release, that Jamestown is to comedy what Cleveland is to rock and roll or Cooperstown is to baseball.

“We would like to thank Gov. Cuomo and Sen. (Kirsten) Gillibrand and (Charles) Schumer for their strong support in getting national recognition for the National Comedy Center,” he said. “However, the real heroes of this project are the men and women of our community who worked every day to make this dream a reality. I look forward to witnessing how Jamestown — a place of rich comedy history — grows and expands due to the jobs the comedy center will bring.”

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