W hen the Oncenter in Syracuse landed a national women's bowling tournament last summer, it was a major victory in the continuing efforts to make the convention center a success. Such victories however are few and far between. Last year the Oncenter still needed a $1.6 million taxpayers subsidy to stay in operation.
N ow Onondaga County wants to privatize the management of the Oncenter complex. The Mahoney administration is contracting with SMG Worldwide Entertainment to bring more concerts ,conventions, trade shows and events to Syracuse. SMG Senior Vice President Gregg Caren told reporters, "Our goal is to put Syracuse, not on the map, you're already there, but put it on the menu with our other facilities."
SMG operates 230 facilities in 9 countries , including 68 convention centers like the Oncenter. It's apparently a business where bigger is better as Caren explained, "If there's a new concert tour that's coming out across the nation, the concert promoters have consolidated over the years. There are 2, 3 or 4 major concert promoters. If they can make one phone call and book 5,10,20, 30, arenas and live entertainment theaters, they're going to do that by working with our live entertainment booking division first and foremost."
On Tuesday, the Onondaga County legislature's Ways and Means committee agreed to have SMG take over management of the Oncenter complex which includes the convention center, war memorial, theaters, and special events at Alliance Bank Stadium.
A s part of the agreement, the people who currently manage the Oncenter will not lose their jobs, but will become employees of SMG Worldwide Entertainment.
T he initial contract to have SMG manage the Oncenter complex is for four and a half years. The company will receive $195,000 annually with the opportunity to double its compensation depending on the number of events it brings to Syracuse.