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Analyzing the Market for a new Niagara Falls Event Center

Live entertainment experts such as Christian Printup have voiced their opinions in opposition of Mayor Restaino’s proposed event center in Niagara Falls, NY. One of their key arguments as to whether or not this project is even feasible involves the saturated market for live events in immediate proximity to our community.

Mayor Restaino’s proposed event center sort of resembles a giant toilet.

The City of Niagara Falls already has three event centers, two of which are owned by the Seneca Nation of Indians. The first is the Bear’s Den which seats 440 people and is located inside of the Seneca Niagara Casino. The second is the Seneca Niagara Event Center which seats 2,500. 

The Bear’s Den inside of the Seneca Niagara Casino.

Mayor Restaino claims that the Senecas are interested in partnering up with the city and supporting his proposed event center, however Mayor Restaino has been the lone voice on this subject. There has been no evidence in recent memory of this alleged support from the Senecas.

Seneca Niagara event center.

Why would the Seneca Nation want to support their entertainment competition in a city where they’re already the only game in town?

The third event center in Niagara Falls is located inside of the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. The Legacy Theatre seats 900 and is gearing up for a $1 million upgrade.

Legacy Theater inside of the NACC.

Up until recently, there was a fourth event center in Niagara Falls; Rapids Theater, which has a capacity of 800 people. Unfortunately, Rapids Theater recently went belly up after suffering financial struggles following the pandemic. This should serve as a warning sign to supporters of Restaino’s grand illusions.

Inside of the failed Rapids Theater.

The outdoor amphitheater at ArtPark is a 17 minute drive from the City of Niagara Falls and it seats 2,400 people, with general admission for almost 20,000. It also has the luxury of being outdoors which most people prefer over indoor concerts in the summertime.

The outdoor Artpark Amphitheater.

Right across the border in Niagara Falls, Ontario is the Fallsview Casino and Resort, which boasts two event centers: The OLG stage seats 5,000 and the Avalon Theatre seats 1,500 people. This venue has already proven its A-list purchasing power with acts such as Billy Joel and Carlos Santana.

Fallsview Casino OLG stage.

Fallsview Casino Avalon Theatre.

32 minutes away, in St. Catharines, Ontario is the Meridian Centre which seats 5,300 and hosts the OHL Niagara IceDogs.

One hour away, in Hamilton, Ontario; is the FirstOntario Centre which seats 19,000 people and still books first class entertainment.

FirstOntario Centre.

The Historic [West Herr] Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda seats 1,100 people and is a 20 minute drive from Niagara Falls.

The Historic [West Herr] Riviera Theatre.

The University at Buffalo Alumni Arena is a 25 minute drive from our community and it seats 6,500 people. Earlier this month, Multi-Grammy and Oscar winner Jon Batiste performed here. 

University at Buffalo Alumni Arena.

KeyBank Center is approximately the same distance away and it seats 19,200; is the home of the NHL Buffalo Sabres as well as the Mill back-to-back championship team the Buffalo Bandits; and it hosts top tier entertainment acts.

KeyBank Center.

The Shea’s Buffalo Theatre seats 3,019 and is 28 minutes from Niagara Falls. Shea’s also has the Smith Theatre which seats 200 and the 710 Theatre which seats 558. Shea’s hosts Broadway performances and musical acts.

Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

Lastly, the Amphitheater at Darien Lake is 50 minutes away and seats 21,600 people; this venue features summertime chart-topping acts, drawing from all over WNY.

Darien Lake Amphitheater.

All of these event centers are already well established. They have all hosted world class acts and performers. Longevity is important in the live entertainment business, especially when it comes to attracting new talent. Whether it’s a live concert, sports entertainment, stand-up comedy or a magic show – legitimate acts and their bookers scrutinize venues very carefully.

Mayor Restaino’s proposed event center lacks committed partners to anchor the center; which is necessary in order to generate consistent daily revenue to finance the facility. It also lacks the type of clean and safe surrounding environment that patrons and performers both expect from a top-notch venue.

In my opinion, Mayor Restaino should spend his entire term focusing on fixing our crime and poverty. These two issues go hand-in-hand, and pose a critical logistics problem for his dream of having an event center. Simply stated, he put the cart before the horse.

Take a look at Rapids Theater which struggled in its attempt to revitalize Main Street. We have to clean the pond before we start inviting big fish to come and swim in it.

Why would any legitimate show or team choose to perform at an unproven venue in a crime-ridden, impoverished city when they have so many better options – all within a one hour drive from our natural wonder?

City Council has approved Mayor Restaino’s recommendation of a “market analysis and feasibility study”, to be conducted by Sports Facilities Advisory LLC, a Florida based firm.

Given the facts, it will be interesting to see what Restaino’s feasibility study reveals about both the site selection and the actual feasibility of his proposed event center. Will the results of the survey reflect the complete absence of anchor tenants and the stiff competition from established entertainment venues in the area? 

Lastly, the firm conducting the feasibility study also offers facility management services. It behooves our City Council to keep an eye on whoever is awarded the operations contract, should the event center ever become a reality.

Photo uploaded to Reddit by user

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