Mohawk Valley Garden is now officially in charge of the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Upper Mohawk Valley Memorial Auditorium Authority, which oversees the facility, announced Friday Mohawk Valley Garden, Inc. had signed a six-year deal to manage the auditorium, including booking all future events.
Mohawk Valley Garden, led by President Robert Esche and Chairman Frank DuRoss, also manages the Utica Comets American League Hockey team.
Their deal with the parent team, the Vancouver Canucks, is also for six years.
Since the renovations began the work has been non-stop in preparing to run the arena, Esche said.
“It’s been a lot we’ve taken on,” he said. “It’s been an Aud makeover extreme.”
Esche declined to give any hints on what Mohawk Valley Garden’s plans for the future were beyond hockey.
“Opening night is Wednesday night,” he said.
The former operating company, Venue Services, led by General Manager Will Berkheiser, had run the auditorium for more than 15 years.
The company’s contract expired Oct. 17. Berkheiser could not immediately be reached for comment.
The auditorium authority’s board decided to go with Mohawk Valley Garden because Esche and DuRoss’ presentation provided the best future for the auditorium, said Chairman Carl Annese.
“With the package they presented to us, it showed the most growth for the auditorium” he said. “Expect to see a lot of activity down along Oriskany Boulevard.”
Esche and DuRoss have said they plan to bring in at least two national recording artists per year.
The state has promised $5 million in upgrades to the facility and the total cost of the upgrades is expected to top $8 million, all of it provided by the state.
The contract’s terms were not immediately disclosed.