New York State Invests $10.5 Million to Support 21,000 Square-Foot Aud Expansion, Critical to AHL's Decision to Host All-Star Game in Utica

New York State Invests $10.5 Million to Support 21,000 Square-Foot Aud Expansion, Critical to AHL's Decision to Host All-Star Game in Utica
All-Star Weekend Will Attract Thousands of Visitors to Oneida County and Highlight Utica's Revitalization to Global Audience

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday that Utica Memorial Auditorium will host the 2018 American Hockey League All-Star Game on Sunday, January 28, 2018. The state's recent $10.5 million investment to expand the Utica Memorial Auditorium, known locally as the Aud, played a key role in the AHL's decision to host the All-Star Game in the Mohawk Valley. The Aud, recently renamed the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, has undergone major renovations since 2012 and is currently home to the Utica Comets of the AHL, which played its first season in downtown Utica in 2013.

"For nearly four years, the Utica Comets have attracted thousands of hockey fans to the area's downtown, supporting local businesses and spurring economic activity that is felt across the entire region," Governor Cuomo said. "New York is committed to ensuring that the Aud remains a top destination, and thanks to the state's $10.5 million investment to expand the facility and the AHL's commitment to host the All-Star Game in Utica in 2018, the Aud will continue to drive growth in the Mohawk Valley for years to come."

In 2012, New York State began investing in the renovation and modernization of the 4,000-seat Utica Memorial Auditorium, which was critical to the Comets' decision to move to Utica. State investments have supported the enhancement of the Aud to meet professional hockey standards, while improving the facility for Utica College's hockey teams and fans.

Since arriving in Utica, the Comets have been an indisputable success both on the ice and in the community, with the team reaching the Calder Cup Finals in 2015 and fans selling out the Aud for every home game during the past two seasons—totaling 93 straight games.

The state's latest investment in the Aud supports the construction of a 21,000 square-foot expansion with $10.5 million, which will help attract more visitors to the city's downtown and support businesses throughout the region. The project, which is underway and expected to be completed by mid-October, will bring the Utica Memorial Auditorium up to current standards for ADA, fire alarms, sprinklers, and women's restrooms, as well as provide permanent office space for both current and future employees. The overarching goal of the expansion project is to make modifications and expand upon the 58-year-old auditorium in order to elevate the building to 21st-century standards.

An important element of this project, the number of women's restrooms in the Aud will increase by over 100 percent. Since 1959, the Aud has never addressed the issue of requiring more women's restrooms, and this project will be the Aud's first opportunity to act on this prevalent issue—one that will improve standards for patrons at all sporting and entertainment events.

Additionally, 4,500 square-feet of office space will be constructed, providing permanent space for the Aud's 52 full-time employees, who have been utilizing temporary office space on the surface parking lot. The expansion will also create six club box seating areas, as well as a larger loge seating space to increase the overall capacity of the Aud.

Improvements have made the Aud more competitive for other non-hockey events such as concerts, trade shows, and other athletic activities, helping to spur economic activity in downtown Utica and for local businesses. Adding these additional seating options will elevate the Aud to the level of other top arenas across Upstate New York - a step that is necessary for the building's vitality.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said, "The investment made in the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium by Governor Cuomo will bring to a close the renovations that have transformed an already magnificent arena into the standard-bearer for the AHL. The transformation of The Aud will make it a coveted venue not only for sports, but high-level entertainment and community events. These improvements along with the dedicated partnership between Oneida County, the Auditorium Authority and the Oneida Nation have led to the AHL All-Star Game coming to Utica for the second time since the Comets arrival five years ago. I would like to thank the AHL for again allowing us the opportunity to showcase Oneida County on a global scale."

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership and strategic state investments in the Aud, today's announcement builds on the many exciting developments already underway in downtown Utica. We're focused on revitalizing communities across Upstate New York and our coordinated efforts are clearly paying off for Utica."

Senator Joseph Griffo said, "With upgrades such as new offices, club box suites and renovations to the existing facility, the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium has become a symbol of the economic revitalization taking place in Utica and throughout the Mohawk Valley. The American Hockey League has recognized this revival and will, once again, provide us with the opportunity to showcase our city and region as the Aud hosts the 2018 AHL All-Star game in January. This news, along with the additional financial investment from the state, will help to continue to transform the facility and region a more attractive destination for residents, families and visitors. I would like to thank the Governor for his continued support of this endeavor, the Aud officials for their hard work and my partners in local government for their contributions in supporting this project."

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said, "The American Hockey League's decision to hold its 2018 All-Star Game at the Aud shows what an outstanding venue it is. I was pleased to secure $1.5 million in this year's State Budget toward its revitalization. The significant improvements to the Aud complement many other projects in downtown Utica that have made the city a great choice for this and other major events, and the popularity of the Utica Comets and Utica College hockey also were factors in Utica getting this major event. I especially want to thank Governor Cuomo for his strong commitment to a project that has made the Aud one of the best facilities of its kind in the state, and that has spurred the economic renaissance of downtown Utica."

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said, "The Utica Memorial Auditorium is a community gem and tremendous quality of life asset. We're excited to host the 2018 AHL All-Star Game, and I thank Governor Cuomo for once again stepping to the plate and delivering for our region."

Chair of the Upper Mohawk Valley Memorial Auditorium Authority Carl Annese said, "It truly is an honor hosting the All-Star Game a second time in the past five years. We could not have done it without the State of New York, the Governor and other State officials believing in our project and our vision."

American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews said, "The American Hockey League is thrilled to be returning to the Mohawk Valley for our All-Star Classic. We owe great thanks to Robert Esche, the Comets organization, the State of New York and Turning Stone Resort Casino for offering their first-class facilities and accommodations once again so that we can showcase our brightest stars in front of capacity crowds and international television audiences."

Oneida Nation Representative and Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter said, "We are thrilled that the Turning Stone Resort will be the title sponsor and official hotel partner of next year's AHL All-Star Classic's return to the Utica. In Central New York, we've created a model for tribal, state, county relations that continues to prove when communities come together and work on behalf of the collective good, events like today are possible. It is an honor to play a part in showcasing our region to the many AHL fans who will travel to join us from across the county to take part in this exciting event"

The Aud has provided residents of Utica and the Mohawk Valley with a quality sports and entertainment venue since 1959. Built on the site of the old Erie Canal, making it historically and architecturally significant when it was completed, the Aud was one of just three arenas with an unobstructed view, and the interior design would later become the prototype for Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena.

The Utica Aud has a long and rich history of hosting hockey in the Mohawk Valley. Currently, it is home to the Utica College Pioneers, Mohawk Valley Community College Hawks, The Skating Club of Utica, and several high school varsity ice hockey teams. It has been the former home for the Mohawk Valley Stars/Comets of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, the Utica Devils of the AHL, the Utica Bulldogs, Utica Blizzard, and Mohawk Valley Prowlers of the United Hockey League, and the Mohawk Valley IceCats of the North Eastern Hockey League. The Utica College Pioneers have a strong local fan base and consistently sell out the Aud for games, which has led to the nation's highest average attendance for a NCAA Division III hockey team.