Oncenter board meets on bailout

Updated at 3:00pm:

The Oncenter's board of directors says it is working on a strategy to prove you have to spend money to make money.

The board says Onondaga County's convention center is achieving the goal of a convention center by attracting business and events to the area. Supporters say that helps the rest of the local economy by bringing in people to spend money at hotels, shops, and restaurants.

Now they have to convince Onondaga County lawmakers and the general public that it deserves a $1.8 million subsidy on top of the $1.4 million the Oncenter has already received. Oncenter CEO Terri Toennies told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon that the the convention center, "grows the economic data base." When asked if there would ever come a day when the Oncenter would be self-sustaining, Toennies replied: "It could never be self-sustaining if it's always going to be used for convention business."

It was a point reiterated by Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci who called it a "loss leader" intended to bring business into the area. He added that the Oncenter was never intended to be self-sustaining. "The decision makers in 1990, '89 and '91 made a decision to build this complex knowing full well the subsidy was going to be there forever."

Toennies says the Oncenter has cut costs and reduced overhead by more than a million dollars a year.

The Legislature's Ways and Means committee is expected to vote on the $1.8 million bailout on May 24th.

Original Story:

The board of directors of the Oncenter meets Wednesday to discuss a proposed taxpayer bailout of the financially ailing facility.

According to a spokesperson for Onondaga County's convention center, the board meeting will deal specifically with the Oncenter's recent request for $1.8 million in aid to keep the complex running for the rest of the year. The request which went before Onondaga County legislators earlier this month comes on top of a $1.2 million dollar taxpayer subsidy it has already received.

The chairman of the Oncenter's board of directors, Steve Cambareri, told lawmakers that expenses have exceeded revenues, because convention business has been hurt by the economy. He also pointed to the bankruptcy of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra which uses the facility, and competition from outside venues such as the Turning Stone Casino.

Currently the Oncenter is hosting the U.S. Bowling Congress Women's Championships which officials say could generate $40 million for the local economy, but the Oncenter had to provide its facilities rent free in order to attract the lucrative event to Syracuse.

The Oncenter includes the Nicholas Pirro convention center, War Memorial and Civic Center theaters in downtown Syracuse.