News

Falls becoming 'entertainment capital of Canada'

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

The new 5,000-seat entertainment centre will be a catalyst for more development, and begin to position Niagara Falls as the “entertainment capital of Canada,” says Joe Dicosimo, president of Hospitality Resorts Inc., partner of Niagara Falls Entertainment Partners.

“With the world-famous falls behind us, known all over the world, the convention centre, all the great attractions that we built up over the years, this is the missing link,” he said during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.

“We’re positioned now, working together, to become the entertainment capital of Canada.”

In July, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced the selection of Niagara Falls Entertainment Partners, a consortium which includes Mississauga-based construction company Bird Construction, to design, build, finance and maintain a new theatre in the city.

Construction began a month ago, and the centre is expected to open in June 2019.

It will be located adjacent to Fallsview Casino, next to the Hilton Hotel at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Murray Street, and will be connected to the casino by an enclosed pedestrian walkway.

The future service provider for the two Niagara Falls casinos will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the theatre.

OLG said it expects to announce the successful service provider in the summer.

Several local and provincial dignitaries, as well as tourism officials, attended the ceremonial groundbreaking, including Dicosimo, Stephen Rigby, president and chief executive officer of OLG, Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, and Mayor Jim Diodati.

Guela Solow-Ruda, the architect who designed the centre, said construction will take 550 days, involving two tower cranes and 4,000 tonnes of steel.

“This is a big project,” she said, adding once built, the theatre will feature 3,000 lights to “illuminate the experience.”

Solow-Ruda said the building’s character will be inspired by the falls.

“The design, in terms of material, palette, vision and iconography, emulates the falls and echoes its image. It’s not only a big project, it’s a big idea, it’s a big vision.”

She said people will be able to enter the facility through a central door.

“The lobby will have a beautiful art piece, which will emulate the falls on the inside of the building, and will act as a kind of guide or wayfinding tool throughout the facility, going from the lower level up to the top level. Accessible to people of all abilities, there will be stairs, escalators and elevators to access it. The facility will reach out into the community with extensive views to the surrounding neighbourhood. As you walk through the facility, you will constantly have a view to Niagara Falls itself, and feel inspired by the beautiful city and by experiences beyond the facility itself.”

Solow-Ruda said there will be a large food service and beverage area on the upper floors, “anchored with views towards the outside and views to the theatre itself.”

“Technically, the building is very sophisticated. It has a super high efficiency building envelope, and the actual theatre chamber itself is insulated for sound. This is an amplified venue, so music will be primarily amplified here, which means that acoustically, the audience chamber is separated from the surrounding city, and the noise of the surrounding city is separated from the experience for patrons themselves.”

The theatre will accommodate larger concerts, shows and attractions, and is expected to draw more visitors to the city and casinos.

According to OLG, the centre will invest approximately $132 million, and create more than 800 construction and entertainment-industry jobs in Niagara Falls and surrounding area.

Sousa said while Niagara Falls is one of Ontario’s and Canada’s “most popular and beloved” tourist destinations, it’s ìmportant to “stay fresh, to keep building and creating new attractions, to entice new visitors, and to keep them coming back over and over again.”

“To that end, it’s important that we do everything we can to drive economic development, to enable more opportunity, to create those good jobs, to bring more direct and indirect businesses to the region, including spinoff local stores and services,” he said.

“The new entertainment centre will go a long way toward building ongoing prosperity for ... Niagara Falls and the province. More tourists will come to your city to see your shows, to shop at your stores, to visit your casinos, to rent your hotel rooms, eat at your restaurants, and they’ll have a great time.”

Rigby said the development of the centre demonstrates OLG’s commitment to “enhancing the entertainment experience for our customers.”

“Providing access to concerts, shows and attractions will help promote greater economic development and tourism activity while generating revenues for both the province of Ontario and the Niagara region,” he said.

Rigby said the construction is a “critical” part of the modernization of the two casinos, and is part of the broader, ongoing, modernization plans for OLG across the province.

Diodati said the centre will be a highlight to both residents and the city’s “maturing” tourism industry.

“Having an entertainment centre that can host big acts will bring more quality shows to Niagara Falls, while encouraging continued economic growth as well,” he said.

Diodati pointed to a consultant’s study that described the centre as one of the “missing pieces” of the local tourism puzzle that would bring an extra one-million people a year to Niagara Falls.

“One (of the missing pieces) was a convention centre (built in 2011), one is the theatre.”

He said while Fallsview Casino has the Avalon Ballroom, it only seats 1,500 people who have a difficult time getting tickets to shows.

“Now, with 5,000 seats, it will be a lot easier. Our council went on record advocating that we wanted this (centre) to also have all ages opportunities, where you can bring your grandkids or your kids at some shows instead of leaving it dark all the time. We see this as a benefit to the entire community. People are going to want to come more often, there’s going to be more things to do, and less reasons to have to go to Toronto or Buffalo to get great entertainment. It’s a great day, and it’s the beginning of more great things to come.”

Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates said the theatre is “great news” for the city and region.

“This entertainment complex is a clear example of what can happen when you work across party lines, (and) across jurisdictions with a goal in mind to create jobs for people,” he said.

“So the next step for me is to work with our partners on this project and make sure local people get this work. It’s great news for our tourism industry and some good news for our tradespeople.”

rspiteri@postmedia.com



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