September 1, 2015
Onondaga County

Governor Cuomo Announces Sweeping $50 Million Redesign of New York State Fairgrounds

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Sweeping $50 Million...

New Exposition Center, Equestrian Facilities and Expanded Concert Area will Transform Fairgrounds into Year-Round, Multi-Use Facility


Governor Cuomo unveiled a sweeping $50 million redesign plan to transform the New York State Fairgrounds in Onondaga County into a year-round, premier multi-use facility that can attract more events and visitors from across the nation. The plan includes a new multi-purpose exposition center with 110,000 square feet of flexible space, an expanded festival stage to bring in larger concerts, a larger Midway to accommodate more attractions and a 400-site RV Park, as well as various parking and pedestrian safety improvements.

“The State Fair is one of Central New York’s greatest economic engines, but the grounds have needed major upgrades for years. That’s why we’re redesigning the Fairgrounds from the bottom up,” said Governor Cuomo. “This plan transforms the Fairgrounds into a world-class set of facilities that can generate economic activity and jobs all year long. This is the first step towards a new Fair, a new regional economy, and it’s all part of the new Upstate New York.”



The New York State Fairgrounds have remained essentially the same for a century – no major redesign has been undertaken and investments have been for basic rehabilitation such as repairs of roofing systems, electrical systems, water and sewer mains and roadways. The current lack of green areas, storm water infrastructure and rain collection systems causes severe flooding during rainstorms.

Richard Ball, Commissioner of the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, said:“The New York State Fair keeps getting better and better every year. It brings in nearly 1 million visitors who are looking to get an understanding of agriculture in our state, try new activities, rides and food, and experience a long-standing New York State tradition. The Fairgrounds mean so much to the people of New York, and the Governor’s plan will help the facility better engage the community and ensure its future as the premier agri-tourism spot in New York.”

Troy Waffner, Acting Director of the New York State Fair, said:“Governor Cuomo’s plan to redesign the Fairgrounds will reinvigorate the Fairgrounds, making sure we can continue to host not only a fantastic 12 days of the Fair with larger concerts, more attractions and better accommodations, but that we’ll become a true year-round, world-class tourism and events destination. I thank Governor Cuomo for this opportunity that will be a turning point for the Fairgrounds—we can’t wait to get started on the project.” 




1. Remove the grandstand and motor track to make room for new facilities;
2. Construct the Expo Center – a state-of-the-art, 110,000 square foot multi-use facility to host trade shows, horse shows, mid-sized concerts and other events; 
3. Construct a larger, modern Chevy Court Festival Stage and seating area;
4. Enlarge and upgrade the Midway to facilitate a more robust carnival;
5. Perform much-needed infrastructure upgrades to enhance visitor experience and better showcase a variety of attractions; and
6. Create a new, 400 site RV Park to serve the Fair, the Lakeview Amphitheater, and many large events held at the Fairgrounds year-round.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said: "With the Governor's support, we've seen some of the best State Fairs in history recently - but we also need to make big investments to keep the Fair strong in the years ahead. That's what this plan does, and I am thrilled to see the new construction and renovations get underway. From the new Expo Center to the Midway improvements and the RV Park, this is a plan that ensures the Fairgrounds will become a major source of economic activity throughout the year, and I want to thank the Governor and everyone involved in bringing this plan to fruition for their commitment - both to the Fair and to Onondaga County."

Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli said: "Thanks to Governor Cuomo, millions of dollars’ worth of upgrades and repairs decades in the making will come to fruition, and Onondaga County will be the home of a premier facility that will attract larger shows, events and conventions all year long. That means more tourism for our region, more attention for our region, and more jobs for our region. I'm thrilled to see this redesign of the State Fair becoming a reality thanks to the Governor's support." 

Senator John DeFrancisco said: "This is a plan that positions Syracuse and Onondaga County as major competitors for some of the largest and most exciting trade shows, concerts and other mega events in the nation. With this redesign and the Governor's support, the Fairgrounds will become a source of economic activity for Syracuse and Central New York not just during the Fair, or during the summer, but throughout all 12 months of the year. I'm excited to see this redesign get underway - it truly is a one-of-a-kind plan, unlike any Fairgrounds investment we've seen in decades, and it will be a boon to the region's economy."

Remove the grandstand and motor track to make room for new facilities

The existing grandstand, which was originally constructed in 1972, was not designed to function as an outdoor concert venue, and is not equipped to meet the needs of modern acts. In fact, the outdated nature of the grandstand has hindered efforts to book top acts to play during the Fair, and the grandstand itself has become a money-losing operation. Additionally, with the opening of Onondaga County’s Lakeview Amphitheater in close proximity to the Fairgrounds, the region will already have a premier, state-of-the-art venue capable of hosting large concerts. The outdated grandstand will be removed in order to free up vital space for Fairground enhancements, and large paid-attendance concerts during future runs of the Fair will be located at the Lakeview Amphitheater.

The motor track is currently only utilized once per year for the annual Super DIRT Week. Like the grandstand, removing the motor track will also create room for crucial enhancements and modern facilities that can be used for a wider variety of events, year-round. 

To ensure the continued success of Super DIRT Week, the Governor also announced that the state has entered into a 10 year partnership with the event organizers allowing them to remain in Central New York. The State will also invest $250,000 in promotional dollars to assist Super DIRT Week expand and grow over the next five years.

Removal of both the grandstand and the motor track is projected to cost $3 million. 

Construct a state-of-the-art, multi-use Expo Center 

The new Expo Center will be approximately 110,000 square feet, adding much-needed space that allows current shows to expand and new shows to be added in the future. The building’s architectural detailing will be designed to complement the older, historical buildings on the grounds. 

In addition to new concert and event space, the Expo Center will house new equestrian facilities. The Fair’s current equestrian facilities are badly outdated, having been in operation for generations without substantial renovations. More specifically, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Horse Barn was built in 1935, the existing coliseum was built in 1934, the main horse barn was built in 1917 and the racing stables were built in 1910. Furthermore, the existing coliseum ring is too small for large-scale horse shows, and lacks conveniences that have become standard in modern shows – such as warm-water wash racks and large stalls. 

The new equestrian facilities will offer two outdoor rings and one covered ring, allowing the Fairgrounds to become a more competitive venue both regionally and nationally. This includes shows of all sizes, ranging from 4-H to Can-Am Hunter/Jumper Shows. The new facilities will also include warm-water rash racks and larger stalls, in sizes of at least 10’ x 12’. 

Possible configurations of the new Expo Center space include: Large exhibitions capable of holding 400 10’ x 10’ booths; a general assembly with seating for 4,500 people; or a 150’ x 300’ arena with up to 2000 bleacher seats and 130 horse stalls.

Completion of the Expo Center and equestrian facilities is expected in July of 2017 at a construction cost of $29 million. It is projected to create and support approximately $10 million annually in economic activity. 

Construct a larger, modern Chevy Court Festival Stage

The Fair has a reputation of hosting perhaps the best free music festival among state fairs in America, yet the constraints of the existing stage have hindered that reputation in recent years. Chevy Court was originally constructed nearly 40 years ago, and its size does not meet the production needs of contemporary shows. In fact, the facility’s limited stage and backstage areas, as well as its current seat limit, make it difficult for the Fairgrounds to book high-profile artists during the Fair and at other points during the year. 

The construction of a larger, state-of-the-art stage will strengthen the Fair’s longstanding reputation as a leader among free, quality music festivals. The new stage and roofing system will be built to modern standards and offer the capacity for larger production shows with video walls, lighting and sound. Safety and security enhancements include a full camera system, electronic access controls, fencing, gates and proper parking locations for tour buses and production vehicles. Additional seating will be added to increase audience capacity by 20 percent, to a total of more than 30,000. The new stage will also allow the Fair to partner with the nearby Lakeview Amphitheater for music festivals and other events. 

Completion of the new Chevy Court Festival Stage is expected in July of 2016 at a construction cost of $4 million. 

Enlarge, reorient and upgrade Midway

Currently, the Midway’s odd shape does not allow for the optimal placement of rides and games during the Fair, effectively limiting the space available to debut new attractions. Additionally, a lack of utility services and a proper draining system severely impedes the space’s ability to function as a show venue outside of the Fair’s normal two-week span. 

Under the Governor’s plan, the Midway will be expanded from 12.5 acres to nearly 16 acres and reoriented as the epicenter of the Fairgrounds. Full infrastructure upgrades will also take place, including the installation of properly sized sanitation and storm water systems, electrical and communication systems as well as electric/water/sewer hook-ups for concession booths, rides and campers. This will allow space for more rides and games during the Fair, and will increase revenue from $3 million to an estimated $4 million over the next four years. During non-Fair times, the new Midway will also allow for more organized parking for events, a much larger space for outdoor shows as well as an expanded camping area that will enable the Fairgrounds to continue hosting large rallies and camping shows.

Completion of the Midway enhancement is expected in July of 2016 at a construction cost of $2.5 million. 

Perform much-needed visitor-experience upgrades

Currently, visitors to the Fairgrounds are greeted by a poorly constructed front gate that is dated, unwelcoming and does not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is also not conducive to modern technological needs for electronic ticketing and scanning. 

The front gate will be reconstructed in a way that is reminiscent of the original, historic Fairgrounds gate while also being ADA compliant and supportive of modern event needs. The redesigned gate will be visually pleasing, with new streetscapes, seating, shade and other visitor amenities. 

Additional improvements will allow for the creation of the “NY Experience” – a functional, park-like area that will highlight the past and future of New York State from perspectives that include its economic, cultural and historical significance. The NY Experience will be a living area designed to showcase facets of the Empire State each day during the Fair, such as through demonstration plots of New York specialty crops. 

Completion of these improvements is expected in July of 2016, at a construction cost of $7.7 million. 

Create a new, 400 site RV Park 

The Governor’s plan includes the creation of a new, 400-site RV Park. This will include full camper hook-ups with 50/30/20 amp electric options, the infrastructure to support communications/fiber, water and sewer connections, as well as bathrooms and showers. Security improvements include a full camera system and a blue light system in select locations. Spaces in the new park will also be larger than those currently offered in order to continue enhancing visitor experience. 

The new, enhanced space will allow for the continued booking of RV rallies such as the Good Sam’s RV Rally, and will be capable of being utilized in conjunction with the Fair, horse shows, the Syracuse Nationals Car Show and events at the Lakeview Amphitheater. 

Completion of the new RV Park is expected in July of 2016 at a construction cost of $3.8 million. The new Park is expected to generate $1 million in revenue on an annual basis.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640

Albany Press Office: 518.474.8418