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By Frank Thomas Croisdale

Are you ready? Come on, people, you can do better than that. I say, are you ready?

You'd better be, because, as of this writing, it's been 10,000 years, 83 days, three hours, 47 minutes and 13 seconds in the making, and it is coming at you with a marketing push that would warm even the coldest hearts on Madison Avenue.

The "it" that I speak of is formally known as Niagara's Fury. It is the newest addition to the embarrassment of riches known as the Niagara Parks system and the latest illustration of the ever-growing chasm that divides the Ontario and New York sides of Niagara Falls.

Set to debut in time for this year's tourism season, "Niagara's Fury is an extreme experience like no other. It will change you in a way you never imagined. The real question is: Will you survive?" said Jim Williams, Niagara Parks Commission Chairman.

The Niagara Falls Review wrote that the "Fury" will be a "Universal Studios-type attraction using video and audio effects to tell the story of how the falls were formed, bringing visitors from the ice age to present day."

According to one press release, the attraction will be unlike anything that has come before: "Utilizing technology and science never before conceived, NPC assembled experts from across the globe to produce and create Niagara's Fury."

There is an official Web site, niagarasfury.com, where you can watch and download a teaser, sign up for updates and play a form of the game Tetris, called Freezing Falls, for a chance to win a two-night package centered around the attraction's grand opening.

One source told me that Niagara's Fury is a type of floating theater where an indoor waterfall surrounds visitors and a multimedia display takes place on, in and around the cascades that immerses you in the history and power of the world's most famous waterfalls.

If this is the first you've heard of Niagara's Fury, ask yourself one question: Don't you want to go see it the first chance you get? Even the strictest of Olmsted disciples must admit that nothing tickles quite like the feather of hype.

This year marks the eight-year anniversary for this newspaper. That means that for nearly a decade now I've rolled out a yearly column decrying the lack of new tourism development in Niagara Falls, N.Y. It would be a nice change if one year I could instead extol the virtues of a shiny, new attraction like Niagara's Fury, but it won't be this year.

Many will argue that we shouldn't attempt to model ourselves on Niagara Falls, Ont. They'll invoke the Olmsted vision and say that Niagara Falls needs nothing but the companionship of Mother Nature to draw tourists from near and far.

In principle, I don't disagree. It's in practice that I have a problem with that line of thinking. I'm willing to bet that if we could conjure up a time machine and go back to 1885, and abduct the great designer and bring him forward to today, he'd be quite horrified to see what's become of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

If you really want to adhere to the Olmsted vision, you'd have to close Goat Island off to all vehicular traffic, rip up the roads, ban the Viewmobiles, demolish the restaurant and gift shop, chop down the Cave of the Winds boardwalk and power off the nightly illumination of the falls. However, none of that would do a thing about the blight and despair of the city's South End that hangs off of the peripheral of the park entrance like an oily rag affixed to a wedding gown.

I'm with everyone who believes that Goat Island should be off-limits for any further development, but the rest of the city is completely negotiable. Here's a pop quiz for you: When was the last time a major tourist attraction opened in Niagara Falls, N.Y.? The answer is 1982.

That's the year the Rainbow Centre mall made its debut amid much fanfare. The opening was carried live on cable television and the crowds were as dense as those found at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Everyone in town wanted a firsthand look at the complex that was going to bring a slice of fashionable Toronto to Niagara.

It's sort of sad when you think about it. The last big attraction built here has been closed for so long that many young people in the community don't even remember it. In the over quarter-century since, there's been nothing save a tethered balloon ride that mainly offers a depressing view of the unfulfilled promise of the city's tourism district.

Some might argue that the casino has been a major development. If they're a member of the Seneca Nation I'll buy into it, but for the city as a whole the casino has been a black hole that sucks people and money in and locks the door behind them. If you can name one major restaurant that has sprung up downtown that is filled to the brim with casino patrons, it's one more than I can think of.

There's no good reason why Niagara Falls, N.Y., shouldn't be rolling out attractions like Niagara's Fury. Oh, and it doesn't stop there for Niagara Falls, Ont.'s new attractions for 2008 either. Just opened is Niagara Freefall, an indoor skydiving experience where people can float on the air currents of a vertical wind tunnel.

Also, Silver Mist Productions is putting on a version of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" that the Toronto Sun said "is as good or better than most shows on Toronto stages."

Within the past few years, three major indoor water parks have opened in Niagara Falls, Ont., and an underground aquarium (sound familiar?) is currently under construction.

The fault for the lack of development here cannot be laid at the feet of local politicians. It belongs, clearly and solely, with the power brokers at the state capitol in Albany. It would be one thing if a nondescript town in the center of the state asked for major renovations, but world-famous Niagara Falls is something different. We should not have to go hat in hand begging for scraps from anyone -- not with 15 million tourists a year coming to see our waterfalls.

New York has a new governor with a lot on his plate. Very little of what he has to digest should take precedence over righting the ship at Niagara. Lost in the media circus that surrounded the downfall of Eliot Spitzer was the fact that the day he made that fateful call from Shorty's pizzeria he was in town to cement a deal that would have greatly increased aid to Niagara Falls. That deal is currently in limbo as the new governor transitions into office.

It's been said that David Paterson knows little of Western New York. Maybe it's time he comes to Niagara Falls and gets a firsthand feel for what decades of state-level neglect have done to one of America's premier landmarks and tourist attractions. If you'd like to write or e-mail the governor to request that he do so, you can contact him at www.ny.gov/governor/contact.

To get started, you'll need an attention-grabbing title for the subject line that gets right to the heart of the feeling of neglect that Niagara Falls has received from Albany for decades. How about this one: Niagara's Fury.

Frank Thomas Croisdale is a contributing editor at the Niagara Falls Reporter and author of "Buffalo Soul Lifters." He has worked in the local tourism industry for many years. You can write him at nfreporter@roadrunner.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 25 2008