It definitely wasn’t a surprise announcement, but state Sen. Joseph Bruno was greeted as a celebrity Wednesday when he rolled out the $6 million he secured this year to expand the Saratoga Springs City Center.
The $16 million expansion has been in the pipeline for years, with Bruno promising funds about as long. He secured $6 million toward the project in 2006, and the rest of the money will come from City Center Authority coffers, said Executive Director Mark Baker.
“The money is in the bank,” Baker said.
The expansion will add an estimated 18,000 square feet to the 52,000-square-foot structure and allow the City Center to host larger conventions and more than one event at a time.
“I had said several years ago, ‘We will get it done,’ ” Bruno said Wednesday at the City Center. “But I find in this business some people don’t know how to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”
Officials and business leaders kept calling him to lobby for the money, he said, and he got the final piece in May when the Senate approved $218 million in statewide “job creation investments.”
The City Center now is completing design plans and expects to request approvals from the city’s regulatory boards in early fall and break ground early next year, Baker said.
After that, construction is likely to take 14 to 16 months, during which time the convention center will remain open.
Although a final design has not been completed, the concept calls for the building to be expanded almost to Broadway with a two-story addition where the open-air terrace now is situated. The building’s south wall also will move about 20 feet toward the side street, Baker said.
A lot of glass on the second story is expected to offer a good view of Broadway, he said.
Baker hasn’t heard any opposition to building over the brick columns and front terrace, and doesn’t know exactly what the outside of the building will look like.
“It needs to be a significant corner,” he said. “For the next quarter-century to half-century, this is going to be Broadway’s big change.”
The City Center currently accepts groups between 400 and 600 people and expects to be able to accommodate meetings of 600-800 after the addition.
After the expansion, the City Center will be able to welcome back groups that have grown too large to fit in its space, Baker said. The City Center currently is booking groups through 2013.
“They want to get back to Saratoga as fast as they can,” he said.
He expects to see a 40 percent increase in the number of participants in the five years after the expansion.
The added space will give the city an even greater edge in attracting people year-round, since the City Center is a major reason that people come in the winter months, said Mayor Scott Johnson.
And that builds tourism long term, he noted.
“Oftentimes they return when they like the place,” Johnson said.
Bruno also touted the City Center’s role in drawing people to the Spa City. “We have not only caught up; we have surpassed the whole Northeast.”
Authority Chairman Michael Toohey agreed. “If you find yourself at a ski resort in Colorado and you tell people you’re from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., they recognize the community.”
Since its opening in 1984, the City Center has generated $321 million in sales that are subject to city, county and state sales tax, Baker said, not including hotel occupancy tax.
Bruno made the rounds like a celebrity before the announcement Wednesday morning, shaking hands with city officials and business leaders, with Assemblyman Roy McDonald, whom Bruno has endorsed to take his seat, smiling at his side.
Bruno also greeted Joanne Yepsen with a warm welcome. The Democrat county supervisor is also running for the seat Bruno will vacate.