H&LA Development Update: Syracuse, New York

H&LA’s recent research for a project in Syracuse, New York revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have an impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Syracuse and the surrounding areas in 2022 and beyond.

  • A new $85 million aquarium has been proposed at the Syracuse Inner Harbor. Initial plans, released in October of 2021, focus on an 80,000-square-foot facility that would hold about 600,000 gallons of water and include a gift shop, café, and outdoor walkways and water exhibits. Onondaga County officials have stated that the aquarium would create hundreds of jobs in the construction phase and could draw as many as 500,000 visitors per year once it opens. As of summer 2022, the aquarium project had not yet been approved by the county legislature, and it is unclear when it will be completed.
  • A major reconstruction project is planned for the 1.2-mile section of Interstate 81 that runs through the heart of Syracuse. This project will replace the aging Viaduct and construct a Community Grid that will improve mobility and reconnect downtown neighborhoods. In 2021, this project received $800 million in support from the state budget. Scheduled to break ground in late 2022, this massive effort carries a total project cost of around $2 billion and will be completed in phases over the next five years.
  • In January 2020, the Onondaga County legislature voted to increase the local hotel tax from 5% to 7% in an effort to raise more money to support tourism marketing efforts. The county’s hotel tax rate is now the highest in the state, but it remains in the ballpark of other Upstate New York markets which typically tax at around 6%. Proponents of the tax hike argued that the measure was necessary to remain competitive with other cities in the region.
  • A new soccer and lacrosse complex has been proposed in Salina, New York, north of downtown Syracuse. As envisioned, this project would create 10 tournament-quality fields, including one indoor field, at the existing county-owned Hopkins Road Park. This project represents a total investment of about $25 million and could potentially draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area each year for tournaments, which would significantly benefit nearby hotels and restaurants. However, it remains unclear whether this project will move forward.
  • The Del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo, New York, was recently purchased for $2.5 billion by Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc. The property, which first opened in 2017, struggled to meet revenue projections in its first few years of operation; however, the new owners have indicated that it will continue to operate as usual following the sale, and improved performance is expected with the recent legalization of mobile sports betting. Del Lago Resort & Casino lies just off Interstate 90, midway between Rochester and Syracuse.