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Cuomo seeks private contractor to operate the State Fairgrounds

By Eric Reinhardt


Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday addressed an audience at the New York State Fairgrounds after he had toured the ongoing $50 million renovation work at the facility. He later told reporters that he was forming the State Fairgrounds privatization task force to evaluate options in pursuing a private operator to “maximize” the state’s investment. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN)

GEDDES, N.Y. — New York State wants to see if a private contractor would be interested in operating the New York State Fairgrounds in the town of Geddes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced the launch of the State Fairgrounds privatization task force to evaluate options to “maximize” the state’s investment and “grow the region’s economy,” his office said in a news release issued.

The group would evaluate privatizing the site to “leverage and expand” on the state’s $50 million investment.

“The Fair, I believe … with the $50 million we just invested, we know we have a better facility. We had a problematic facility before,” Cuomo said in speaking with reporters at the Fairgrounds on Wednesday where he had earlier taken a tour of the renovation work.

New York State conferred with private operators previously, but they “weren’t interested,” he said, citing the old midway as one of the reasons for their disinterest.

The state wasn’t in a position to attract a “top tier” private-sector operator, but after the investment, Cuomo told reporters he wants to “try again.”

The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets operates the State Fair.

Task force members
The task force will evaluate the “prospective benefit” of partial or full privatization to the region’s economy. It’ll also evaluate the ability to “maximize” the state’s redesign plan and further expand the site’s capacity by building a multi-purpose expo center.

The State Fairgrounds privatization task force includes:

  • Richard Ball, New York State Agriculture Commissioner
  • RoAnn Destito, New York State Office of General Services Commissioner
  • Patrick Hooker, New York State Deputy Secretary for Food and Agriculture
  • Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County Executive
  • Troy Waffner, acting director of the New York State Fair
  • Hank Greenberg, New York State Fair advisory board chair
  • Rockett Brunettiý, New York State Fair advisory board member
  • Bea Gonzalez, New York State Fair advisory board member
  • Van Robinson, president of the Syracuse Common Council
  • Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau
  • David Holder, president of Visit Syracuse

In the coming months, the task force will conduct analyses and a series of public meetings to collect feedback from the community and the State Fairgrounds’ business partners. The group will deliver a report to Cuomo by Dec. 31.

Construction continues
Cuomo had visited and toured the State Fairgrounds earlier in the day.

Construction crews have made “substantial” progress on the $50 million renovation project at the Fairgrounds, Cuomo’s office said in its news release.

“It looks good,” Cuomo said when speaking to reporters after his remarks at the Fairgrounds.

The $50 million plan to redesign the State Fairgrounds includes a larger, 15-acre midway that will include new rides, attractions, cell-phone charging stations, and resting areas. The redesign plan also includes a 315-site recreational-vehicle (RV) park, 15 acres of park space, and various parking and pedestrian safety improvements.

Construction of the State Fairgrounds’ new RV park, expanded midway and 15 acres of park space is “on track” for completion in time for the Syracuse Nationals car show in July and the State Fair’s opening day on Aug. 25.

The $50 million project includes a new exposition center and equestrian facilities, set for completion by July 2017.

Contact Reinhardt at

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