Picente Lays Out Concepts for Arts, Sports & Entertainment District in Downtown Utica

AUD, craft beer center and gaming facility to serve as epicenter of ‘The U District’

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Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. laid out his transformative vision for downtown Utica today with concepts for an Arts, Sports and Entertainment District anchored by an expanded Utica Memorial Auditorium, the American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center and the Utica Commons Casino.

“These elements, when taken in unison, will create a critical mass of visitors who will kick the revitalization of downtown Utica into overdrive,” Picente said. “This unparalleled amount of investment will build upon the recent success of the Utica Memorial Auditorium and transform its surrounding area into a thriving Arts, Sports and Entertainment District that will create jobs, spur economic development, provide additional amenities for our emerging high-tech workforce and establish Utica as a powerhouse tourism destination.”

Surrounded at the Utica Memorial Auditorium by representatives from government, business, education, arts, sports and entertainment who support Picente’s dynamic plan, the County Executive unveiled conceptual artist renderings for “The U District,” which included the following features:          

  • An expanded Utica Memorial Auditorium
    • Luxury suites, exclusive loge seating, women’s bathrooms, restaurant, and office space, along with upgrades & renovations
  • Nexus – The AUD’s Sports Epicenter for recreation & tournament-based play
    • 350,000 projected annual visitors
    • Year-round, multifaceted sporting opportunities
  • The American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center
    • 500,000 projected annual visitors
    • 100 full-time jobs and 75+ seasonal positions
  • The Utica Commons Casino
    • $50 million investment by the Oneida Nation
    • 750,000 projected annual visitors
    • 200 full and part-time jobs
  • 27.5 acres of improved downtown development
  • Greenspaces for public gathering
  • Public playground
  • Food outlets and boutique retail development opportunities
  • Improved streetscape design and pedestrian connectivity
  • Public art installations

“As we near the end of phase one, the AUD continues to be the catalyst for ‘The U District,’ a vision that has been in the works for five years," said Mohawk Valley Garden President Robert Esche. "’The U District’ will greatly enhance tourism, in turn sparking a prevalent rise in economic development. These concepts hold true to be very exciting for not only Utica but the region as a whole, as we narrow our vision to create a sports, arts and entertainment hub unheard of in like markets."

Picente cited the many benefits of a revitalized downtown district that, in conjunction with Mohawk Valley Health System’s soon-to-be constructed state-of-the-art hospital, will create employment opportunities, add new revenue streams for economic growth, supply additional public parking, improve community health with green spaces and stimulate property values.

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said: "The County Executive has outlined a bold vision to revitalize downtown Utica, and we’re pleased to be able to join other local stakeholders in partnering on this effort. The proposed downtown Utica Arts, Sports and Entertainment District would be a welcome addition to the tourism economy in Central New York, which is why we are prepared to invest approximately $50 million in this project should it move forward.”

State Senator Joseph Griffo said: “As we continue to explore opportunities to revitalize the Mohawk Valley, I support Oneida County Executive Picente’s vision and initiative to develop a Sports and Entertainment District in the City of Utica. I am pleased to be part of a team effort to deliver funding that continues to transform our region, and I look forward to seeing the County Executive’s latest efforts build upon our progress so we can further enhance the outside appeal of what our region has to offer.”

State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said: “The creation of a sports and entertainment district surrounding the AUD is a very significant part of a larger vision that has already resulted in the revitalization of downtown Utica.  This plan will bring even more people into downtown Utica, encouraging more economic development in the area, and providing a year-round destination for visitors.”

Frank DuRoss, part owner of the Utica Comets and the executive director of the Mohawk Valley Community College Foundation, which operates the Bagg’s Square-based thINCubator said: “Innovation, creativity and energy are the hallmarks of a vibrant community. The transformations that have taken place, and will be accelerated by this new project, are making downtown Utica in the 21st Century what it has been throughout our region’s history – the place where young, creative minds come to develop new ideas, and where members of the community from all walks of life come to the region’s entertainment hub for recreation. This new concept builds upon the new ideas of our entrepreneurs, and the great community excitement created by the Comets.”

Utica Councilman Joseph A. Marino said: “I find it incredibly exciting to have such a bold proposal put forth by the County Executive, and as details emerge I look forward to hearing about the proposition on how we can work together to bring possibly hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in private investment by the Oneida Nation.  I am proud to be a part of the discussion in determining our future in the City of Utica in terms of Sports and Entertainment.”

Utica Councilwoman Samantha Colosimo-Testa said: “I’m excited to see this type of vision from our County Executive for a unique tourist destination that builds on the success of the AUD and brings real financial investment and impactful investors together. This project will create jobs and bring true economic gains to the City of Utica.”

Utica Councilman Bill Phillips said: “I want to make this a better city, with more options and more opportunity. I’ve been working with the County Executive and I see tremendous promise in this proposal. I’ve also heard legitimate critiques of this project that will need to be addressed going forward.  The key is going to be to get all parties on the same page, so we can turn an idea into a cooperative effort to benefit the people of this area. I’ll continue to work toward that end.”

Utica Councilman Edward Bucciero said: “I am very excited by the prospects of County Executive Anthony Picente’s proposal to transform the area surrounding the AUD into a Sports & Entertainment District. For the past 4 years, I along with members of the Utica Common Council have supported the idea of theme distracts as an avenue to solidify the economic strengthens of important areas within the city.  Therefore Mr. Picente’s proposal is welcomed news.”

Adirondack Scenic Railroad Executive Director Bethan Maher said: “The construction of the beer museum and casino will highlight the history of the neighborhood and be viewed as an opportunity to cohesively brand the area as a destination within Oneida County and the City of Utica. The creation of a tourism district will attract new life and people to the area and have a positive effect on local businesses and attractions.”

Mark Mojave, owner of Gerber’s 1933 Tavern in Bagg’s Square said: “Given what is being proposed, I think that now is the time to work together to ensure that our city realizes the full benefit of this investment and that the private sector be encouraged to leverage the investment by the Oneida Nation, New York State, Oneida County and the AUD Authority to create a destination and a sense of place.

To our public officials, to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, I say now is the time to come together so that this concept is fully developed, not just for Bagg's Square but beyond. It is an exciting time for Utica and our success may well lie in connecting to the world around us. Our time is here. Our time is now.”

Oneida County Legislative Majority Leader George Joseph said: “I applaud the County Executive for his passion and vision in revitalizing our county. I join him in exploring and optimizing any and all viable opportunities.”

Oneida County Legislative Minority Leader Philip Sacco said: “I’ve always maintained that when it comes to investment in our county, our role as legislators is to try to find a way to be partners in growth. We still haven’t received all of the details of this project, but I plan to do my homework and work toward progress in our county.”

Oneida County Legislator Jeffery Daniels, District 18 said: “I think any elected official who has a closed mind to a project of this magnitude, with this type of investment and job creation in our city, is doing a disservice to the people they are elected to serve. I feel as an elected official we should do whatever is necessary to bring this Sports and Entertainment District to fruition. Obviously, there will be concerns and issues that will need to be looked at, as there are in any project of this size. We will work with all the invested partners to ensure those are addressed and this vision becomes a reality.”

Oneida County Legislator Rose Ann Convertino, District 22: “I support economic development, entertainment, good-paying jobs and partnerships. Working with the Auditorium and the businesses on Varick Street, we have an opportunity to do all of that with this project if we’re able to strike an agreement that’s fair for Oneida County and the people of Utica.”

Oneida County Legislator William Hendricks, District 20: “The people in my district want jobs and entertainment and this provides the opportunity for both.  While there’s still due diligence to be done, I’m optimistic about another large investment in an area I see increasing promise in.”

Oneida County Legislator Barbara Calandra, District 12 said: “I’m always excited for the potential when we’re talking about a $50 million investment in our county. Of course, the details matter and will matter in this case – but the opportunity is big enough that I think it deserves serious consideration and open minds.”