Proposed events center gets boost from lawmaker support

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 5:16 PM EST
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TOWN OF WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - An events center proposed in the town of Watertown is getting support from some local state lawmakers.

State Senator Mark Walczyk along with assemblymen Scott Gray and Ken Blankenbush formally endorsed the $80 million project. That might make securing funding from the state a bit easier.

“On behalf of the Thousand Islands LDC and, more importantly, the people of Watertown, I thank Senator Walczyk, Assemblyman Gray, and Assemblyman Blankenbush for their support,” said town of Watertown supervisor Joel Bartlett.

The proposed Thousand Islands Event Center would include 8 basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, an indoor track, and 2 hockey rinks inside. Outside it would also sport 3 turf fields.

Bartlett says he hopes the center will bolster the north country’s sports scene and make life easier for local teams.

“This is going to enable them (people) to stay a lot closer to home. This facility will actually bring in revenue from outside of the area. We’re anticipating 305,000 visits to this center on an annual basis,” he said.

But there’s still a matter of funding. Of the project’s $80 million cost, about $23 million is expected to come from state and federal grants.

Senator Walczyk has stated he’s willing to “cut any red tape at the state level” to make that happen. Assemblyman Gray says he’s confident in the project.

“They have a good plan that’s sustainable, that looks like it’s sustainable. They have a good plan to operate it, to maintain it, and market it to make sure it’s successful,” said Gray.

The rest of the funds will come from a mixture of taxable bonds and private equity. But for securing state funding, Bartlett says the endorsement will go a long way.

“The legislators supporting this project is a great welcoming component of the applications,” he said.

Bartlett tells us it’s too early to estimate when construction could begin on the project. But he may have updates in a few weeks.