The Niagara County Legislature is getting behind a proposed study to measure the need for a new convention center/arena in Niagara Falls.

Last week, by a unanimous vote, legislators approved a resolution supporting Niagara County Event Center LLC in its bid for a NYPA Power Proceeds grant. The grant would fund a feasibility study of a multi-use event center in downtown Niagara Falls.

The former Niagara Falls Convention Center was transferred by the state to the Seneca Gaming Corporation in 2002, to be the site of Seneca Niagara Casino. According to the legislative resolution, this "left Niagara Falls and Niagara County without a large enough multi-use venue to host conventions, or sports and entertainment events, which has led to a large reduction in year-round activities and hotel room occupancy."

Niagara County Event Center LLC was formed last month by members of the Niagara County Building and Construction Trades Council. Legislator Jason Zona, D-Niagara Falls, said vacant property owned by Niagara Falls Redevelopment around Seneca Niagara Casino is being considered for a location.

The LLC's application for a Power Proceeds grant was submitted about a month ago. Its agents have yet to hear a response.

Zona said it is important for the state to see "a full county effort" in support of a convention center feasibility study.

"We're in a world-known city and we have to turn down events because we don't have a facility the right size," he said. "Many legislators ... see this city is starting to turn the corner downtown. There are new hotels popping up. But there is still a lot of work to do. We're missing that facility for large conventions and off-season events that will fill these new hotels and lead to more hotels being built."

Majority Leader Randy Bradt, R-North Townawanda, said the study is an opportunity to "take a good look at this and make sure it's the right thing for the county."

John Percy, Niagara County Tourism and Convention Corporation president and CEO, said he welcomes a feasibility study done "the right way" to determine whether a convention center would "properly fit into what we have."

"Sometimes it's great to have great ideas, but is it going to properly fit into what we have? It would be great to have an entertainment venue, more convention space," he said. "It has to properly fit into the amount of hotel rooms we have."

In the event a feasibility study is commissioned, Percy asked to be part of the process of picking a company to do the study.


Contact reporter Rikki Cason at 439-9222, ext. 6252.

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