How Would You Re-Imagine the State Fairgrounds?

Mar 9, 2015

Central New Yorkers who visit the state fairgrounds for any number events year-round or just the 12-day fair probably have ideas of how $50 million  in state money might be used to re-imagine the venue.  

An aerial view of the fairgrounds from County Executive Joanie Mahoney's State of the County Address.
  Many have probably seen or at least heard of the plan presented by County Executive Joanie Mahoney at her state of the county address to make the fairgrounds a more modern, vibrant, year-round attraction.  Acting fair director Troy Waffner says it’s still just conceptual.   There’s still a long way to go, starting with a master planning process using professionals…and soliciting public input. 

Waffner says the planning process can only begin if…and after the legislature approves the funding in the budget.  So far, the concept includes a new ice rink, equestrian center, and full-service RV park.  The grandstand and dirt racetrack would be replaced.   Waffner says there’s also a vision for development across state fair boulevard which Mahoney presented as a “main street” concept.  

A rendering of a fair midway from Mahoney's presentation.

   He says permanent, year-round businesses would be built in the pink parking lots…which are only busy during the fair.  

"The other 50 weeks a year it sits empty, and in the winter, it's just a desolate frozen tundra.  And the idea is really, how do you generate more commerce down through there?  I don't have a concept, I think a lot of it's going to be done through an RFP (Request for Proposals), and we're working with private developers because that's going to be all private investment on that side of the road, it's not going to be public investment."  Waffner says it’s all intended to tie in with the new lakefront amphitheater going up across the highway and the re-emergence of a healthier Onondaga Lake.  He says once funding is approved, timelines are ambitious, but he hopes to have a final plan in place and on display at this year’s state fair.