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Onondaga County amphitheater expenses, revenues under question by legislators

Tom Magnarelli
Deputy County Executive Bill Fisher (center, back) explains to legislators some details on the ampitheater operations.

Onondaga County legislators are questioning the expenses and revenues coming out of the new Lakeview Amphitheater along Onondaga Lake. Legislators want more information regarding who pays for what on everything ranging from buses to bathrooms. Legislator Kevin Holmquist said a lot of money is exchanging hands. He is pushing for a facility-use fee for the future upkeep and maintenance of the amphitheater.

"We're flying blind," Holmquist said. "The county literally doesn't know what our expenses are going to be and we don't know our revenue. As the legislature, we have an obligation to find out what the situation is now, certainly by the end of the concert season. Hopefully, the county executive's office will get us some information before the end of the year."  

Deputy County Executive Bill Fisher said a detailed accounting of the expenses and revenues will be available after the concert season. The county hired the management company SMG to operate the amphitheater.

"From a financial reporting or accounting prospective, you don't pull all your books together and produce a financial report after each and every single concert because the expense of doing that is crazy," Fisher said. "They're certainly watching every single expenditure and they're making sure that someone is covering all those costs so there's little or no risk to the county taxpayer that they're going to be on the hook at the end of the season." 

The county pays less the $3 million every year on a 30-year bond. Payments are being made from a settlement the Oneida Indian Nation made with the state in 2014. Any revenue the county makes off the amphitheater is kept in reserves. The state still owes more than $100,000 to the county from the amphitheater’s first concert featuring Miranda Lambert. Dave Matthews Band performs before a sold-out crowd of 17,000 people at the amphitheater on Wednesday.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.