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Amphitheater project moving forward

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Legislator Linda Ervin was the deciding vote to approve borrowing about $50 million to build an amphitheater along the shore of Onondaga Lake.

Construction can now begin on an amphitheater on the western shore of Onondaga Lake.

Onondaga County lawmakers agreed Monday to borrow almost $50 million to build the venue. Opponents, like Republican Kathleen Rapp, voted against the plan, suggesting it doesn’t have enough of an economic punch.

“It’s like your family budget," Rapp said. "You’d like to do everything. I would love to do this amphitheater, but not at the cost of giving up other things that would give far bigger return to taxpayers.”

In the end, it came down to the vote of Democrat Linda Ervin, who agreed to the deal at the last minute.

"This project is not the best project in the world, but in the immediate near future, it is a project that will give us jobs, that will give us the possibility of jobs going forward, that will open doors for people of color, and women businesses, to do the work that needs to be done, that they’ve never had the opportunity to do before,” Ervin said.

Ervin admitted she was swayed by promises of more county projects going to companies run by women and minorities.

“For years and years and years, I’ve been fighting for people to be able to have the same playing field, to get contracts and do the work we do here," Ervin explained. "And county projects in the past, it’s been a catch as catch can, sort of thing. They’ve been locked out for any number of reasons. This is really important and it’ll make a big, big difference.”

The 30-year bond will be paid back using gambling revenue earmarked for Onondaga County, stemming from a deal between the state and the Oneida Indian Nation. Five legislators voted against the plan, saying those Oneida Indian Nation funds could be used for projects with a large economic impact for the county.

The amphitheater is part of a $100 million plan that’s meant to revitalize communities along the western edge the lake. Onondaga County is hoping the facility will be finished in time for a concert in 2015.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.