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First half of State Fair renovations on pace to be completed end of June

Ellen Abbott

New York State Fair officials say the first half of a massive redevelopment project at the fairgrounds in Geddes will be done by the end of June.

It was just last summer that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would sink $50 million into the aging fairgrounds -- half this year and half next. Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner says the project has come together quickly, and it will mean big changes at the facility by the time the Syracuse Nationals car show comes to town in mid-July.

"If you go out there, you can see a kiddieland that’s almost done; a Midway that’s just about 12 ½ acres of pavement that’s the way it’s supposed to be; and an RV park that’s going to be finished up soon,” said Waffner.

Walking through the fair, there still is a lot of work to be done in the coming weeks; construction equipment and crews still working on a new entryway and revamped Chevy Court. Waffner says some of the most important work though was underground, especially in the Midway area, creating better drainage and electrical access. And fairgoers won’t recognize the Midway, after the demolition of the grandstand opened up 60 acres of land.

Credit Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets a briefing on construction at the state fair last week.

“It’s going to allow for certainly more rides during the fair, and it’s going to allow for more games. And it’s going to allow for the accoutrements that fair goers want the cell phone charging stations, the rest areas, the benches, the shaded seatings, as well as a wider aisle way. It was tough to build a wide aisle way in that Midway because it started at 35 feet then opened up to 400 feet at the west end.”

Next year the big project will be development of a multi-purpose exhibition center. All these improvements give the state better leverage as it looks to find a private operator to run the fair either jointly with the state, or on it’s own. And in the end, Waffner says it was simply about time the state paid attention to a facility that really hadn’t changed in 100 years.

“For years we’ve taken capital money and we’ve cleaned the facade, and washed the windows. It needed more than washing windows. It needed the siding changed. It needed a big hug at the end of the day, and this is what the $50 million allowed us to do."

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.