It was not too long ago that anticipation filled the air in Niagara Falls and all of Western New York when a group of lawmakers led by State Sen. George Maziarz got the go-ahead from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to let famed aerialist Nik Wallenda walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls.
Wallenda's historic crossing on June 15, 2012, was broadcast internationally and put the city of Niagara Falls and its famous cataract on the world stage for weeks both before and after the death-defying stunt.
Here we are two years later, and despite all the hope that Wallenda would set up some kind of entertainment complex in Niagara Falls to capitalize on his world-famous wire walk, instead he will be performing with his family and other aerialists this summer at nearby Darien Lake from June 23 to Sept. 1.
The failure of Niagara Falls to put together a mega tourist attraction featuring the Wallendas is a real disappointment for all concerned, especially local businesses that would have enjoyed another Wallenda windfall if leaders could have put aside their differences and worked together for the greater good.
The good work of Maziarz, State Sen. Mark Grisanti, Assemblyman John Ceretto, and former Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak won the day two years ago, even helping to persuade the Canadians to follow suit, but the momentum has been temporarily lost by the inability of Niagara Falls stakeholders, and we mean all of the them, to come to the table and bring Wallenda and his crew to the city where he wowed the world.
Maziarz was the driving force that brought Niagara Falls its Wallenda moment, and for that he deserves great credit. But now the time has come for others to get on board and bring Wallenda back to Niagara Falls and create a legacy attraction that will live for years and bring millions of tourists (and their dollars) to the cataract city to see the man who walked across Niagara Falls on television.
Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. CEO John Percy should be front and center in pushing for a Wallenda theater instead of spending time and money on promotion for NTCC as he pushes to win a contract extension with Niagara County for his agency's services.
Others need to step up, starting with the city's top elected official, Mayor Paul Dyster, who spends time on the governor's stadium committee but apparently couldn't find time to woo Wallenda to his city and bring in millions in tourism revenue. The staggering price ($400 million) for a new owner to move the Bills before 2020 would seem to allow Dyster time to work on promoting his city's best interests instead of hobnobbing with a lot of politicians who at the end of the day will probably have very little real input on what happens with the team. But it is a great photo op for all of them.
We salute Maziarz, even though we don't always agree with him, for what he did to re-establish world notoriety for Niagara Falls by clearing the way for Wallenda's enormously successful tightrope walk across the mighty gorge. We now hope that others will step forward and not let any more time—or dollars—get away by walking away from a Wallenda entertainment center in the city he helped make famous again.
See you in Darien Lake, Nik, and we're sure the folks at the Genesee County amusement park are mighty glad Niagara Falls let Wallenda get away for this season. It should be a good year down the Thruway.