5 December 2017
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr.
Oneida County Office Building
800 Park Avenue
Utica, NY 13501
Mayor Robert M. Palmieri
Office of the Utica Mayor
1 Kennedy Plaza
Utica, NY 13502
Dear Mr. County Executive and Mr. Mayor:
The AHL All-Star game is less than 60 days away. I think it would be prudent to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce All-Star Game attendees to the fine products available in Utica and all of Oneida County. This would be a stark contrast to what happened a few years ago when the All-Star Game produced zero extra sales tax revenue. Taxpayers in all of Oneida County work too hard to allow that to happen again.
As you may be aware, during last year’s Art on Utica exhibitions – ArtonUtica.wordpress.com for more info – we learned some things about tourists who come into this great city. While there are some hurdles to overcome, with just a little bit of planning, we can create the kind of experience that will get the local tourist over their initial fears. That in turn will create a spark in sales tax revenue which will provide financial relief to everyone who resides here.
First and foremost, even with ticket prices ranging from $124 – to $143, our emphasis should be on the youth. We learned during Art on Utica that the youth who visit here do not share their parents’ worries and concerns. These worries and concerns have been built up over time. In reality, that version of Utica no longer exists but the worries and concerns continue because it is hard to get rid of a bad thought about a person, place, or thing. Since the youth do not succumb to bad press, they deserve most of the attention.
Therefore, I would suggest that the Children’s Museum or the zoo or both offer some kind of cross promotion with the All Star Game. Even at this late date, I can get a pottery expert to entertain the kids on site. The exuberance of a child is contagious and should never be underestimated. If the kids are over the top excited, the parents might spend a little bit more in the attempt to create a memory.
It should be noted that efforts to enhance our financial prospects come in the form of what we can do now and what we can do on the night of the event. Extra police personnel and Sheriff’s Deputies should be everywhere. We have noticed time and time again that those who visit to Utica arrive at their destination, make no attempt to wander around and explore, then leave once the performance is over again without stopping for a drink or making an extra social media memory.
Until we can convince our guests that Utica is a safe place to get lost in, every single event should come with an extra police presence. Wandering and exploring can be reinforced as a habit. We learned this lesson in Newport many times when we decided to open up former “townie”, and therefore by definition “not as attractive”, sections of the community to new tourism. There was always hesitancy at first but once guests learned that they were safe, they would replicate behaviors they had exhibited everywhere else.
Last but certainly not least, another unexplored area of cross promotion has to do with our downtown. Since the event is being “produced” by the Turning Stone and since most of the guests will be staying there, when the guest arrives downtown and does not see a Turning Stone presence, they get the feeling that they are “off campus.” It is not the same exact feeling as when you leave the resort property in Jamaica or Aruba to go downtown but it is an uncomfortable feeling just the same.
At some point we have to make the decision that the Turning Stone is a functioning part of Oneida County and not just “that place where, ya’ know, the Indians own stuff and don’t pay taxes.” Until this change happens, we will forever be lagging in our efforts to maximize possible tourism revenues. Again, many communities, including the great city of Newport, have struggled with the acceptance of gaming facilities. I can rely on experience to tell you that once the change occurs, nobody wants to go back and live through it again the olde fashioned way. Change is hard but leaving thousands, in this case tens of thousands of dollars on the table, is even harder.
It cannot be said enough that the All-Star game gives Utica and Oneida County a chance to introduce themselves to tourists with discretionary incomes. For many of these tourists, they live just down the road to begin with. They do not visit that often due to already held prejudices regarding our safety or because we have not done the best job telling them what is available here.
Art on Utica stands ready to learn as much as we can about our visitors at all times. We will always transmit this information to appropriate office holders and community leaders. It becomes their job to see the information through the lens it was collected: a pure attempt to understand why we continue to under-perform as a tourist community compared to other locales who do not offer the entertainment experiences, food, and art that we do. Our performers, our chefs, and our artists deserve nothing less.
I am lucky in that I already got to write a successful story in the 3rd most expensive American resort city. I desire nothing more than to look back at my efforts in Utica and hope that they introduced a gem I found by accident to others who were not even looking. In order to bring about that change, there is hard work to be done. While the work will indeed be hard, the payoff for ourselves and our children will be immeasurable. Instead of being part of the same old same old, do you not also desire to be on the ground floor of something magical?? If so, please join me in making the changes we all must engage in so magic can become a reality.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Robert T. Oliveira
Art on Utica