Casino in Utica? Picente Hopeful 'U District' Plan Revitalizes Downtown

UTICA, N.Y. -- Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente shared what he hopes the future of downtown Utica will look like on Tuesday.

"We are making a change in this community and in this county. And we're doing it across the county," he said.

Picente wants it to be an arts, sports and entertainment district.

"If there's another plan, a better plan, I want to see it," he said.

He's calling it "The U District." The goal is to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Some features include:

• Expanding the Utica Auditorium

• Creating "Nexus" -- The Utica Auditorium's Sports Epicenter

"So this is three sheets of ice that can be converted into lacrosse fields and soccer," said Robert Esche, the Mohawk Valley Garden President about the center. "It's truly based around recreation and tournament-based play."

• Creating The American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center

• Creating the Utica Commons Casino 

The Oneida Nation has proposed to invest $50 million.

"It's about entertainment value, and look, it is an economic value around the state now," Picente said.

There has been some opposition to creating a downtown Utica casino, but Picente said he's moving forward.

"People are opposed to a hospital, so I understand being opposed to a casino, but I think when you again look at it in total ... It's not just putting a casino in the middle of town and saying, 'that's it we're done'. It's a piece of it," Picente said.

If Picente's vision works out, he said it could lead to at least 300 more full-time jobs. He said some of the renovation work has already begun.

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