Pack a flashlight at the Wheeler | AspenTimes.com

Pack a flashlight at the Wheeler

John Colson

Going to the Wheeler Opera House for the New Year’s Eve concert tonight?

If so, you might want to take along a pocket flashlight, because the Wheeler has no equipment to keep the stage lights and sound going if the Y2K bug causes a citywide power failure at midnight.

Although city officials looked into purchasing or renting the kind of generator required to keep the century-old theater up and running no matter what, it proved to be a little too expensive, according to the Wheeler’s executive director, Nida Tautvydas.

“The only thing we could find was in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, and that’s for a rental,” Tautvydas said.

She said the city decided to buy a smaller emergency generator for about one-tenth the cost of renting the larger generator for a day, and rely on the assurances of local utility managers that the lights will most likely stay on tonight.

The generator that was purchased, however, did not arrive until late this week, and was being installed by the Wheeler’s maintenance crews on Thursday, Tautvydas said.

The emergency generator, she said, will provide sufficient power to boost the emergency evacuation lights somewhat, and to ensure that the building’s boilers keep working to prevent pipes from freezing in the event of a blackout.

As for those attending tonight’s two shows, she said, producer David Laughren will give a brief announcement at the beginning of each show, advising the audience that the lights may go out at some point and asking people to remain calm and allow the Wheeler’s staff to execute their evacuation plan.

The late show, which begins at 10:30 p.m., is expected to be over by 1 a.m. Tonight’s double bill features Keb’ Mo’ opening for John Hiatt and the Goners.

Local officials have been saying for some time that if the lights do go out, it may not happen until 1 a.m. because Aspen is on the “California power grid,” and the California time zone is one hour behind Colorado’s.

If so, Tautvydas said, “It’ll be perfect timing. The show will be over, our generator will kick on and we’ll have a nice, casual evacuation.”


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