After Riverhead Town Board members watched a video of a “dinosaur theater” presentation for the old Second Street firehouse on Thursday, they said they plan to move forward with selling the building.
Suffolk Theatre owner Bob Castaldi wants to purchase the firehouse from the town and Rick Takemoto of Greenport, who is representing the On-Art company from Japan, is interested in building a dinosaur theater there.
During the Town Board’s regular work session Thursday, Mr. Takemoto gave a presentation about his company’s “Dino A-Live” program with video.
Dino A-live uses large dinosaur costumes with humans inside them. They perform at schools, museums and amusement parks in Japan but have yet to be unveiled in America. Often, the show is combined with education about dinosaurs.
“There are humans maneuvering this from inside the dinosaur suit,” Mr. Takemoto said, as he showed the board a video of a T-Rex pretending to bite a child’s head during a performance in Japan. “It’s the hottest product in Japan right now.”
Mr. Takemoto said he’s a good friend with the president of On-Art and they used to work together in Tokyo.
“I’ve been trying to get them in the United States,” he said. “I showed them around, and they liked Riverhead.”
In particular, they liked the firehouse, he said. The town acquired the building from the Riverhead Fire District a few years ago after it relocated its headquarters.
“They want to build the dinosaurs out here too,” Mr. Takemoto said. “It’s very expensive to ship them over here, so they want a facility to make them.”
The firehouse, in the future, could be expanded for that use, Mr. Castaldi said.
“I love the fact that you could maybe make this their home port,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.
Councilman John Dunleavy agreed that it was a good idea.
The videos from Japan, which can easily be found on YouTube by searching Dino A-Live, frequently show the dinosaurs biting kids’ heads.
Mr. Walter watched a dancing dinosaur video.
“I prefer more dancing than eating kids’ heads off,” he said.
“The whole thing is about fear,” Mr. Takemoto said, adding there may be some cultural differences on that front between Japan and America.
“You get people here saying, ‘You messed up my kid,'” he said. “But, in Japan, they say, ‘Thank you very much for biting my kid’s head. He listens to me now.'”
“I think we have to tone it down a little over here,” Mr. Takemoto added.
Mr. Castadli said he plans to restore the outside of the firehouse to make the building “structurally sound and historically correct.”
Richard Wines of the town’s landmarks preservation committee said he would work with them on the project.
The roof needs to be raised on the north portion of the building to accommodate the dinosaur theater, Mr. Castaldi said. He estimates the bleacher seating could accommodate between 250 and 300 seats.
Councilman George Gabrielsen asked how long the “shelf live” of the act would be and questioned if it would lose popularity in the future.
“There’s always going to be little kids,” Mr. Castaldi responded, “and, little kids, they love sharks and they love dinosaurs.”
Mr. Takemoto was part of a group that had planned to open a robotic dinosaur exhibit in 2012 in the former McCabe’s building. That space housed the Dinosaur Walk Museum from 2004 to 2007 and featured static dinosaur sculptures that didn’t move.
The robotic dinosaurs Mr. Takemoto’s group planned were actually moved into the building, but then were destroyed when the building was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. That plan is no longer being considered, he said.
Deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti said Community Development director Chris Kempner has disclosed a potential conflict of interest and will not be working on this project because she’s married to Mr. Takemoto.