COLUMN: County to embark on exciting venture with SMG

— For many years, Onondaga County’s OnCenter Complex has been operating at a loss, requiring the taxpayers to cover the deficit. When the OnCenter was constructed in 1992, its primary purpose was not to generate revenue for itself, but rather to be an economic driver for the region. Now, Onondaga County is taking the OnCenter in a new direction. Beginning in September 2011, the county recognized that there are private firms with expertise in the area of event management and began seeking applications from vendors to manage, operate and market the Convention Center, War Memorial Arena, Civic Center Theatres, OnCenter Parking Garage, Everson Plaza and county-sponsored events at Alliance Bank Stadium. After a thorough selection process, SMG, a venue management company out of Philadelphia, was selected. SMG is a world leader in venue management, marketing and development and they will soon oversee the OnCenter complex.

Representing venues in small and large cities across the country, SMG has the leverage to bring entertainment and other events to Central New York in a way the county alone could not. I anticipate that little will change with regard to the day-to-day operations of the complex, but that the events we will see coming to Syracuse will be more diverse and very exciting. By joining the SMG family, the Oncenter Complex has a greater chance of attracting high profile acts that SMG books to play large cities like Chicago, but in doing so will book them to play the smaller cities in their portfolio, like Syracuse.

The legislature voted unanimously to authorize the execution of the agreement with SMG. It provides a base management fee and an incentive fee. This means that the county’s liability for OnCenter expenses is now capped, and SMG’s profit will depend on their performance. Based on their long track record in venue management, I believe this new direction will be a tremendous benefit to our new partners, our local tourism industry and everyone living and working in Onondaga County.

Derek Shepard represents the 13th legislative district, which includes the towns of Van Buren, Elbridge and portions of the Town of Camillus. Derek welcomes constituent feedback; he can be reached by email at shepard@twcny.rr.com or at home, 638-2422.

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