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Public meetings begin to decide future of NY State Fair renovations

Tom Magnarelli
The public gave their opinions about fairground renovations at a meeting Wednesday.

The New York State Fair began public meetings on Wednesday to discuss how it will spend $50 million in state funds to renovate the fairgrounds. So far, proposals for the renovations would require tearing down a piece of Syracuse history.

At stake is about 70 acres of land where the Grandstand at the New York State Fairgrounds currently sits.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney unveiled a plan back in March to replace the Grandstand and the oval-shaped Moody Mile dirt race track that surrounds it with an equestrian park, multi-use indoor ice complex and new RV park.

About 300 people came out to the fairgrounds on Wednesday to voice their opinions.

Credit Tom Magnarelli
John Madden, owner of John Madden Sales, which sells horses in Cazenovia, speaks at the meeting.

John Madden is in favor of the renovation. Madden is a long-time supporter of the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament which lasted eight years before it ended in 2010.

“Direct economic impact was 55 million dollars over eight years," Madden said. "So what went wrong? Why did it only stay for eight years? It didn't have the infrastructure to support an event that size.”

Brian Carter, who helps organize the 44-year-old Super Dirt Week competition, is against demolishing the Moody Mile.

“This is $10 million annually to the Syracuse market. I showed you where the tickets are coming from, it's 22 different states. This is meaningful to the people that come,” Carter said.

A draft plan with different alternatives of the renovations should be made by the end of June. A final plan will be made by the end of August or early September.

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.