IDA bets on DiCienzo’s downtown waterpark; Meanwhile, Wonderfalls remains a pipe dream

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Since few of the 8 million tourists who come here every year venture outside of Niagara Falls State Park, it’s doubtful Cuomo, Uniland or Gov. Cuomo are stupid enough to spend $75 million on “Wonderfalls” in the pretty much empty, decaying downtown of the city of Niagara Falls.

Michael DiCienzo’s proposed $20 million indoor water park in downtown Niagara Falls got a big boost this week from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, which granted a $6.6 million tax break package to the project.

Mr. DiCienzo first announced the project in May with a larger scope that would have also included 200 new suites atop the company’s Sheraton at the Falls hotel on Third Street. At the same time, Mr. DiCienzo decried a lack of state funding for the potential $70 million project.

“We really want this to happen, but we’re looking for some assistance like other developers are getting,” he said at the time. “Generally they provide assistance in the neighborhood of ten to 20 percent of the project. That’s been pretty much typically what they have done in the past with other developers.”

But state officials have shown no interest.

“The state is saying it can’t provide assistance because our project would be competing with a state-assisted property nearby,” he said.

Mr. DiCienzo was referring to the moribund “Wonderfalls” announced with great fanfare and hype by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Paul Dyster three years ago.

Gov. Cuomo said the state was prepared to invest approximately $75 million in the Wonderfalls project, but when Mr. DiCienzo asked for around $22 million to assist in the Sheraton at the Falls project, state officials turned a deaf ear.

Wonderfalls was to have been developed by Delaware North and Uniland, while Mr. DiCienzo has never given a dime to New York politicians.

“That’s probably the reason, in part why we are in this predicament,” said Mr. DiCienzo. “But we should put everything aside and look at what is right for the market and the people in the market.”

Geoffrey Reeds, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Mr. DiCienzo’s America Niagara Hospitality, said the company was “disappointed” not to receive state assistance, but it will move forward. The plan for the indoor attraction is “shovel ready” and estimating a 12-to-18 month construction schedule after work begins, he added.

Asked about the Wonderfalls project in May, Mayor Dyster hemmed and hawed but said he remained, as always, optimistic.

“A large amount of work has been done, but none of it is the sort of thing that results in a major announcement,” the mayor told the Niagara Gazette. “I have heard they have faced some engineering-related challenges trying to get all the programmatic elements into the space.”

“We’re very, very excited about this project moving forward,” he added. “It has the potential to be transformational for downtown.”

Mr. DiCienzo has been wildly successful with the two waterparks he developed in Niagara Falls, Ont., both contained in the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and Resort, a luxurious three acre compound that also includes four hotels.

By contrast, Delaware North and Uniland wouldn’t know a water park from a water pic.

Gov. Cuomo’s choice of Delaware North and Uniland over America Niagara Hospitality is inexplicable if not downright criminal.

Since it is a part of the governor’s scandal plagued “Buffalo Billion” program, which has already resulted in a number of federal indictments including some of Mr. Cuomo’s closest advisors, you could lay odds on Pine Avenue that it has more to do with the latter.

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