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County Exec Proposes Major Transformation of New York State Fair

Onondaga County Executive, Joanie Mahoney

Onondaga County Executive, Joanie Mahoney

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said a revitalization of economic activity, not sales tax, will give the county budget the boost it needs, during her 2015 State of the County Address.

Mahoney said, in an effort to bring in jobs, and sustained economic growth, she’s asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to spend $50 million in state money to revamp the New York State Fairgrounds, and turn the area into a year-round, New York-themed theme park.

“We’re going to rebrand the fairgrounds as a New York-themed theme park,” she stated. “We’re no longer funding our county budget with property tax the way we are with sales tax. So, we have to have economic activity.”

According to Mahoney, the state fair brings in about $130 million in annual spending, and attracts one million visitors to the region each year.

However, she said the event has been underutilized, and has not been reimagined in a century.

As a result, Mahoney said she wants to rebrand the state fair, and transform the event, by adding the following new amenities:

• An Equestrian Park, featuring a year-round indoor arena; an outdoor arena; practice rings; and stabling for up to 1,000 horses.

• A new RV Park and campground, featuring 1,000 full-service sites, bathrooms and showers.

• An Empire Ice Plex, featuring a 50,000 square foot, multi-use facility, which could also host hockey games and tournaments.

In addition, Mahoney said she wants to make the improvements “film-friendly,” in order to maximize the county’s efforts to attract the film industry to the area.

Mahoney said the county also has an aggressive timeline for the overhaul, and plans to have the RV Park complete by May 2016, and the Ice Plex complete by July 2016.

“Our plan will make the state fair a world-class entertainment, and tourism destination, and a major economic driver for the whole state,” she stated.

Mahoney also touted the county’s other recent development projects, including Hotel Syracuse, the War Memorial, Civic Center, and Onondaga Community College.

In addition, she said the new Onondaga Lake amphitheater will replace the old grandstand at the New York State Fair, and confirmed all concerts at the fair would be moved to the outdoor theater, which the county decided to build last year.

Additionally, although the state legislature has yet to approve the funding, Cuomo has already set aside $50 million in the state budget for the fair, and is expected to visit the area this week.

He released the following statement regarding Mahoney’s proposed transformation:

“The proposal for the state fair laid out this evening by Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is an impressive plan that will help transform the fairgrounds into a more complete year-round facility and restore parts of the facility in need of repair. The plan recognizes the potential economic development benefits of this investment, and contains a long term vision for the region, including measures to revitalize land adjacent to the grounds and importantly, connect the fair grounds to the community and further revitalize the lakefront. Recognizing the significance of the state fair, both to Central New York and our entire state, I proposed $50 million in this year’s budget to make the fairgrounds a more enjoyable experience and an even bigger draw for visitors, in addition to helping attract tourist activity and events in all four seasons. I thank County Executive Mahoney and state fair officials for their hard work on this proposal, and I look forward to working together with them and the Legislature to ensure this plan is funded in this year’s state budget.”