The latest on Big Green Screen and LECOM fitness center

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Driving around Erie, it’s easy to spot local businesses that have closed or downsized in the past three years.

Whether due to COVID-19, global supply chain issues, a shrinking workforce or other issues, many stores, restaurants and entertainment venues have not survived or are only open on a limited basis.

Here are three well-known local institutions that closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and are still not operating as they did a few years ago.

The big green screen at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center

It has been more than three years since nature and environmental movies have been shown regularly at the TREC theater.

The 175-seat theater is not completely closed. It hosted a few showings of “Mysteries of the Great Lakes” and some non-film events over the holidays, said Matt Greene, who oversees TREC as operations manager of Presque Isle State Park.

But most of the time, access to the theater’s lobby is cut off from the rest of the center.

“We let our contract with The Big Green Screen Association end in 2019 because the theater model was already changing,” Greene said. “With the center being open mainly during daylight hours, we didn’t see many people attending the movies, except on some weekends.”

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The plan for the next few years is to open the theater more frequently for a variety of events, including screenings of “Mysteries of the Great Lakes” and in-person educational gatherings. The theater will also be available for rent already this summer.

TREC can show “Mysteries of the Great Lakes” because it was one of the film’s fundraisers, so it has permanent rights to show the film, Greene said. It does not have the rights to show other films it has hosted in the past.

Eventually, the TREC will undergo significant renovations, including the theater. Members of the TREC Foundation first announced plans for the renovation in April.

But it will take a year or two to raise the money, Greene said.

“We will continue to work on making some improvements to the theater this year,” Greene said. “We want to improve its technology so that we can live stream more events. This will allow us to better serve school groups that come on field trips.”

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LECOM Medical Fitness and Wellness Center

Like the Big Green Screen, LECOM’s fitness center is not completely closed.

The Millcreek Township center, 5401 Peach St., is open to “Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine employees, staff, faculty, and all students and (medical) residents,” according to LECOM Health spokesman Matt Bresee.

But the three-story, $31.5 million facility, which closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is still not open to the public.

LECOM Health officials did not explain why it did not fully reopen as other area fitness centers did in 2021. It differs from other fitness centers in that it focuses on adult fitness and wellness, and that members must be at least 16 years old to join.

“We plan strategically for the future and can let you know when plans change to include the public,” Bresee said in an emailed statement.

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Serafini’s Restaurant

My colleague Jennie Geisler reported the latest news on this popular Millcreek Township eatery in late September.

A legal notice in the Erie Times-News was the closing of a legal settlement that Serafini’s Inc. transferred to Serafini’s LLC, which settled the estate of the previous owner, Richard Carrara, who died in 2012.

Serafini’s, 2642 W. 12th St., has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Terry Carrera, one of Carrera’s three sons who now own Serafini’s LLC, told Geisler in September that the family’s plans for the restaurant were still not clear.

One interesting side note: The liquor license remains in the hands of the LLC and is being held for safekeeping by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board until July 31st.

HERE to HELP: Have a consumer question you’d like us to help you with? Leave a message with David Bruce at 814-870-1736, email or send mail to 205 W. 12th St., Erie, PA 16534.