On November 3rd, The Mid-Hudson Civic Center Inc. submitted a proposal to operate the Hyde Park Drive-In Theater. The National Park Service, under the Department of the Interior, had previously sought proposals to take over the Drive-In that were due back in April. After listening to public comment, a new request for proposals (RFP) was released in August. The deadline for the latest requests ended on November 3rd.
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The Mid-Hudson Civic Center Inc. is the not-for-profit organization that operates the MJN Convention Center, McCann Ice Arena in Poughkeepsie, and Ice-Time Sports in Newburgh. I got to speak with Mid-Hudson Civic Center President Zeidan Nesheiwat about the latest proposal. Below, Nesheiwat goes into detail about what the Civic Center would plan to do with the Hyde Park Drive-In should their proposal be approved.
Why Did the Mid-Hudson Civic Center Submit a Proposal?
Nesheiwat: The Civic Center submitted a proposal because we recognized what a great opportunity the drive-in would be not only for the MHCC to expand its portfolio but also to further connect with and serve the community by adding more options for fun and entertainment right here in Hudson Valley. MHCC has 50 years of history in the Hudson Valley; we understand what the Hyde Park Drive-in means to the community and believe we are the best option to bring the theatre back to life.
Our goal is to stay true to the historic background of the theatre while reinventing the business model to restore the drive-in to its glory and make it not just a movie theatre but a destination. We at the MHCC believe that we have the existing infrastructure, experienced team, and time to dedicate to these goals.
As you may know, the MHCC's event schedule is very fall/winter heavy; we run a bunch of ice hockey and skate programs from September through March and host various concerts, shows, expos, and trade shows during those same months. This leaves us with some free time in the spring/summer and early fall that we would dedicate toward running the Hyde Park Drive-In. This not only keeps us busy and helps us connect with the community during our slower months, but allows us to use our expertise and incredible staff to bring something back to the Hudson Valley that is new and exciting.
What Would the Civic Center Like to do with the Drive-In Should They Get the Approval?
Nesheiwat: If granted approval, we of course would operate it as a classic drive-in but with substantial upgrades that will make it feel like a whole new place for those who have been to the drive-in before and an exciting destination for first-time visitors. The upgrades will be extensive; we plan to completely renovate the concession stand, bathrooms and projection room that are already on the property with new and modern stylings and kitchen equipment so that we can offer fresh, delicious menu items like popcorn, milkshakes, burgers, and pizza.
We will purchase new sound and projection equipment which will allow guests to watch them on our sharp screens and listen to them in crystal clear sound. The MHCC will also make a few additions to the property to upgrade the overall experience; we plan to construct a seating area with tables alongside the concessions stand so guests can meet in groups or enjoy meals away from their cars. We will also add a children's playground to give little ones a place to stretch their legs and get some energy out before or between films.
A special addition to the drive-in will be its new theme: Classic Americana. As an ode to the rich history of the property, the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, we will infuse the drive-in with a classic, all-american feel that highlights some of the most prominent figures and themes of American history, like FDR himself, as well as pieces of history, like a replica liberty bell. The concessions stand will be named "Teddy's Snack Shack" and the employees will wear uniforms in line with early 1900's fashion to make guests feel like they've been transported to the turn of the 20th century, all while watching newly released films on state-of-the-art technology. The drive-in will be a place where nostalgia meets modern technology that the whole family will enjoy.
We would open from May through November and feature both new releases and classic favorite. In addition to standard movie nights, we hope to host special events such as Halloween movie marathons and baseball themed nights that will feature special on-theme treats. Guests will be able to enjoy classic movie-fare from Teddy's Snack Shack as well as specialty treats for themed-nights and special events, like hot cider for halloween nights or cracker jacks for the baseball nights. Along with showing movies, we plan to use the property for other events such as farmers markets, craft fairs, beer festivals, musical concerts, antique markets, children's shows and day camps during off-days/hours.
Are There Any Changes to the Drive-In That The Civic Center Would Implement?
Nesheiwat: As I mentioned, there will definitely be some substantial upgrades to the property and drive-in features. We would plan for a full renovation of the concessions stand, bathrooms and projection room and would construct an outdoor patio area and children's playground for guests to enjoy. We will also purchase new projection equipment and sound system for an optimal movie experience. For the concerts, festivals and shows, the MHCC also will purchase a portable stage and bleachers.
We think one of the most important changes will be to the theme. Everyone loves a drive-in because it makes us feel nostalgic and brings us back to a simpler time where everyone got together on the weekends to watch a film under the stars while enjoying some milkshakes and burgers. In an age where there are so many options and hand-held screens taking our time, we hope to double-down on that feeling to bring the community together in a wholesome environment.
We chose a Classic Americana theme not only because of the Hudson Valley community's patriotism, but also as an homage to the history of the property. Hyde Park prides itself as the home of President FDR and tourists flock here to visit the historic sites, like FDR's home or the Vanderbilt mansion, to capture that memory and essence of American History. Now, the drive-in will offer that same essence but in a more lively, entertaining way that all ages can enjoy together. The MHCC hopes that with this theme, the community will embrace and celebrate the history of the property even more and hopefully bring some friends to do so, too.
What is Your View on the Community Impact That The Drive-In Has Had on the Hyde Park Community Over the Years?
Nesheiwat: There is no doubt that the Hyde Park drive-in was a coveted piece of the Hudson Valley community for the last several decades. So many people here that MHCC have special memories that were created at the Hyde Park drive-in and we want to re-open the theatre as a way to continue its legacy but with upgraded features, like new technology and upgraded concessions, to make the memories even greater. The MHCC is excited to potentially have the opportunity to re-open the drive-in and breathe life back into it and also to celebrate the rich history of the property with the new Classic Americana theme that we hope everyone will enjoy.
Mid Hudson Civic Center is committed to help bring together the Hudson Valley community to create unforgettable memories for generations to come.
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Gallery Credit: Conor Walsh