GEDDES — With the 2017 New York State Fair underway, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is already looking ahead to the next big project at the fairgrounds. 

At opening day of the fair Wednesday, Cuomo and Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development, outlined plans for a 133,000-square-foot exposition center that could host year-round events at the fairgrounds in Onondaga County and be used during the 13-day fair. 

The facility would be the largest of its kind north of New York City and between Boston and Cleveland, Cuomo said. It will be equipped to host car shows, equestrian competitions and motocross races. The center will have a capacity of no less than 4,000 people. 

Construction could begin as early as November. It's expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2018 state fair. 

Cuomo said the expo center will help the fairgrounds become a year-round economic generator. 

"We can attract national shows to come to this venue and that's good for the entire metropolitan region," he said. "You bring people to come to see a car show or a horse show or an equipment show. That's good for Hotel Syracuse, that's good for the restaurants, that's good for the shops." 

The cost of the project will be "roughly $50 million," Zemsky said. That figure is identical to the amount allocated in the state budget for a second round of improvements at the fairgrounds. 

When the funding was included in the budget, the initial plan was to invest $35 million to construct an expo center and the remaining $15 million would be used to build an aerial gondola linking the fairgrounds to the nearby Lakeview Amphitheater.

There was opposition to the gondola and the state didn't follow through with its plan. Instead of funding the gondola, the $15 million will support the construction of the expo center and other improvements, such as revamped parking lots. 

The state issued a request for qualifications in July and three upstate New York teams are eligible to advance to the request for proposals. The teams include a partnership between Hueber-Breuer Construction of Syracuse and The Pike Company of Rochester. LeChase Construction of Rochester and Welliver Mcguire Inc. of Montour Falls also qualified for the RFP. 

The proposals will be due in October. 

Building the expo center is expected to create more than 700 construction jobs, according to the governor's office. Once the expo center is built, it will be managed by an outside entity. 

Cuomo's plan for the site includes privatizing the promotion of non-fair events at the expo center. The state will seek a private operator for the facility by issuing a separate request for proposals this fall. 

While the fair draws large crowds every summer, non-fair events are a key part of the fairgrounds' business model. The fairgrounds drew 529,000 people for non-fair events in 2016. 

This year, 560,929 people have attended non-fair events at the fairgrounds in Geddes. The total includes an estimated 90,000 attendees at the Syracuse Nationals classic car show and two horse shows. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

3
0
0
0
0