NY State Fair gondola gets budget approval, but not everyone is on board

Apr 14, 2017

More renovations will continue at the New York State Fairgrounds now that $70 million was recently approved in the state budget for changes. But not everyone is happy with the proposed ideas.

Included in the $70 million dollars is funding for an aerial gondola that will connect the fair and Lakeview Amphitheater. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney admits it came out of left field.

“But so did the amphitheater," Mahoney said. "The concern and the conversation about the amphitheater right out of the gate was kind of fierce. But once it was built and people saw how beautiful it was and it was such a successful season and now people are really excited about the amphitheater, I think the same will be true for the gondola.”

Mahoney said there are plans to make the fairgrounds more year-round with a public-private partnership and a taste of New York theme, creating more use for the gondola.

"You would have the view of the lake and downtown Syracuse and on nights that we have amphitheater shows you can get off the gondola up at the amphitheater," Mahoney said. "There's different speeds. Sometimes it can be pure transportation to move people. Other times it can just be a ride unto itself."

But state Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) sees things differently.

“I don’t think anybody other than the governor and possibly the county executive favor the gondola, including the group that was appointed by the governor to study what the next phase of renovations should be at the state fair,” DeFrancisco said.

He said funding would be better invested in improving the transportation and paved parking at the amphitheater.

"The amphitheater was thrown up in a matter of months and there are a lot of deficiencies there with respect to conveniences for people," DeFrancisco said.

A criticism has been that unpaved parking makes accessibility difficult for people in wheelchairs.
The $70 million includes a new on-ramp to Interstate 690 and improvements to the fair's parking lot that's closest to the amphitheater. Mahoney says if the state accelerates the schedule to make more accessible parking, she will forgive an outstanding payment from the state for the amphitheater’s first concert.