The public is being asked for comments on the recently-announced plan to build an amphitheater on the western shore of Onondaga Lake, adjacent to the New York State Fairgrounds, so the Hound will go ahead and air some thoughts.
We’ve long advocated for a new concert venue to replace the decrepit Grandstand with something more suitable to 21st century concerts (Venues on the Menu, Aug. 18, 2013), so we certainly applaud any move in that direction. The location, right on the lakeshore, has its plusses and minuses.
It promises to be a beautiful and impressive facility, projecting a capacity of about 17,500, which is approximately the same as the Grandstand, but with much improved sight lines and better in every way. Still, there are the legitimate environmental and public health concerns expressed by several groups, including a new coalition called Citizens for a Better Plan. If you stroll or bike the nearby trail, there are reminders of the poison deposited in the soil and the water over decades of careless and irresponsible dumping by neighboring factories. State reassurances that there won’t be health risks to visitors seem overly optimistic. Plus, there has already been disruption of wildlife habitats that can only be complicated by a new facility.
Since we’re here to advocate for optimization of the Fair, we’ll go on record as preferring construction of a venue on or adjoining the current grounds rather than in the lakeshore location. We understand that there’s limited space on the grounds for a new stage and seating, and few possibilities for expansion beyond the current grounds. The plan would be to utilize the new venue for concerts throughout the summer season, but 10 or 12 events during the Fair is still a significant number of shows.
A Fairgrounds site is still a better option, especially when you consider that the lakeshore spot won’t provide the boost to businesses on the grounds that the Grandstand has long been providing. It’s a significant disadvantage, at least in terms of impact upon the Fair itself, that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Many fans heading for a show at the new amphitheater would likely park as close as they can and go directly to the show to avoid the lengthy, uphill hike or need for motorized transportation to get to the show from the grounds. After all, it’s a long way from the Fairgrounds proper to the new venue site and the trip requires navigating around State Fair Boulevard, I-690 and several parking lots just to get to the concert gate. After the show, in most cases, folks will head home as the Fairground turnstiles will be closed by then anyway.
Currently concert fans can’t enter or exit the Grandstand without crossing the Fairgrounds, making it tempting to stop at a food stand, buy a drink, enjoy the midway or take in any of the other exhibits or vendors. Thus, a disappointing attendance count has the compensating effect of giving a boost to the Fair by pumping a few bucks into its businesses. That will be a significant loss and is one reason we favor placing the new venue right on the grounds in spite of all obstacles.
We’d also like to see the concerts continue to be part of the excitement and buzz of attending the Fair. The neon backdrop of the midway provides a rare and beautiful ambience for concerts and the free admission that goes with ticket purchases is good for visitors while boosting attendance.
But we expect that no one is actually going to listen to the public, certainly not the governor or the county exec. Joanie probably has already figured out how she’s going to benefit her family and friends from this project, always her foremost consideration.
Photo by Herm Card