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MAR 31 - APR 07, 2015

Has the Time Come For a New Convention Center?

By Robert Ventry Jr.,

March 31, 2015

Aerosmith in concert at the NF Convention Center.

Elvis Presley at the NF convention Center July 13, 1975.
Miss Texas in the Miss U.S.A. Pageant, held at the Niagara Convention Centre Niagara Falls New York
The grand entranceway of the old convention center now owned by Seneca Gaming.

While family entertainment has been lacking in the downtown area for many years, our former Convention Center used to provide plenty. From car shows, to monster truck rallies and auto racing, rodeos, wrestling, boxing, even pedigree dog shows and name act concerts; the Niagara Falls Convention Center even hosted the Miss American Pageant. All these events helped the economy, especially in winter when the tourism market is slow.

With the benefits a convention center could bring to the area, has the time come to build a new one?

It has been over 10 years since our old Convention Center closed.

Since then local hotels and restaurants have lost a lot of revenue that use to come with having a Convention Center - especially in the shoulder seasons in spring and autumn.

Although convention centers typically don't make a lot of money, it's the business they pull into the cities that count. The goods and services purchased by conventioneers help area retailers and provide sales tax revenue that helps the whole community.

In the years prior to our Convention Center closing, it contributed greatly to our local economy. In 2001 there were 69 conventions and conferences pumping over $24 million into the local economy.

Since then we have lost a significant amount of that business to other parts of the state.

After giving away our convention center to the Seneca Gaming Corp., the state built a much smaller conference center with a capacity to hold no more than 3000 people. While a state of the art building, the conference center is not big enough to host the type of conventions that use to come to town.

When the Casino first opened in 2003, there was a lot of talk about spin off development that it would bring. Years have passed and not much, if any, of that development materialized. Why should there be spin off development with a casino?

Thousands of people go to the casino on Friday and Saturday nights - never to spend a dime in the city, outside the casino. The casino has everything a patron needs right inside.

What we need is something to get people out of there, to spend money in the downtown area.

If we had a Convention Center that could host 10,000 people - like our old convention center did - and if we had a convention or concert on a Friday night, we could have 10,000 people in the downtown area or maybe more. Do this a few times a month throughout the year and imagine the benefits this influx of paying customers would have on the local economy, and the spin off development it could attract.

A new convention center would have positive impact on businesses in the downtown area, lead to higher hotel occupancy rates, especially in the off season, when hotels and motels can use the business.

Niagara Falls once had a convention center and a new one might be a catalyst for future development. With the benefits a convention center could bring to the area, has the time come to consider seriously if we could not undertake to build a new one?





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