The Saratoga Springs (NY) City Center Authority Board announced the appointment of Ryan McMahon as the new executive director of the Saratoga Springs City Center. McMahon begins his new position on January 1 and replaces Mark Baker, the venue’s only executive director since it opened in 1984.
McMahon has been with the venue since 2011 as operations manager and in fact will spend a busy New Year’s Eve as some regional bands will perform in three different rooms at the venue before being ushered outside at midnight for a fireworks gala. Even that event bears some familiarity for McMahon as prior to coming to Saratoga Springs he was the director of the Times Center, the New York Times’ premier performance, events and convention venue in Times Square.
“It will be a busy night, that’s for sure,” McMahon said. “We will have several thousand people coming through during the course of the night. It’s a big city celebration and quite a way for me to transition.”
After working at the venue for better than five years, McMahon has a strong sense of the challenges and opportunities before him.
“Our website needs an overhaul,” he said in talking about challenges. “We are going to look at technology. We know we need to establish a greater social media presence. We are very fortunate that our bookings are strong going forward. While we are working on a marketing campaign, it is not really going to be for the immediate future, but more for 2018 and 2019.
“We know that we are facing some other challenges. New York state has a bunch of new casinos coming online and one is about 30 minutes up the road in Albany. There is also a new convention center opening up in downtown Albany. So we have some new competition. I think our position is really strong, though. We can offer something that really no one else can which is a safe, walkable city with a robust business downtown.”
As for the City Center’s business activity, McMahon cited the strength of several state associations and conferences that choose to meet at his venue.
“We are close enough to Albany and kind of central in the state itself, so a lot of state associations come here,” he said. “That has been the lynchpin of this business. As with every convention center, it’s about driving hotel rooms.”
McMahon noted that when the City Center opened in 1984, Saratoga was primarily known as a summer tourist town with a big race track presence. “The legend was you could shoot a cannonball down Broadway and not hit anyone,” he said.
Baker and the venue proceeded to turn tourism into a year-round happening, thanks in large part to Baker’s many civic involvements to help drum business for the venue.
“Mark’s contributions to the community have just been outstanding,” McMahon said. “He has always been at the forefront when something needs to be done in town.”
McMahon plans to continue the proud legacy. His wife, Colleen Parker McMahon, is a Saratoga native.
“I said to my wife that I loved what I was doing in New York City, but there are so many people there,” McMahon said. “I wanted to be some place where what I am doing matters to the community, not that it didn’t matter in New York, of course. But it’s hard to find a better position than working at the Saratoga City Center and the town of Saratoga.
“We said that there are three variables in life: what you do, what you make and where you live. Most people average those out but we decided to spike where you live as high as we could and work the rest out from there. It’s the best recipe for success I can think of.”