Mayor Restaino’s unfunded $150 million plan to build a park and event center on John Daly Boulevard will cost Niagara Falls’ citizens millions of dollars, and have a negative impact on both the city’s finances and its residents for generations to come.
Indeed, published reports indicate the actual costs of the project could be $300 million — and that doesn’t include the costs of acquiring the land, nor legal fees and costs required for expensive multi-year legal battle with the private landowner.
With experts projecting an annual loss of that could reach $500,000, this plan puts all of the burden on the citizens of Niagara Falls. Instead of working with Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) to bring a state-of-the-art $1.48 billion data center that will provide an abundance of economic opportunities for the downtown area, the Mayor and his associates plan to spend taxpayer money on a questionable eminent domain case that will cost years and likely millions of dollars.
And unlike the NFR proposal—which would donate the land to the city for a park for free, along with more than $250,000 annually for maintenance—Mayor Restaino has not included the cost of annual upkeep in his budget at all.
As reported in the Niagara Gazette, the Niagara Global Tourism Institute—a group that originally was working with the city to come up with a viable plan for Downtown Niagara Falls— issued a report in September 2022 that “questions the city’s ongoing effort to secure taxable property owned by Niagara Falls Redevelopment for the purposes of building an arena and other components of Mayor Robert Restaino administration’s $150 million Centennial Park project.”
A 2017 arena development analysis commissioned by the Niagara County Legislature and generated by the Minneapolis-based consulting firm Convention, Sports & Leisure considered two potential options for running a “multi-use hybrid venue” in the Falls that could accommodate crowds of between 4,000 and 6,000 people.
The “tenant model,” which would involve at least one anchor tenant such as Niagara University’s hockey or basketball programs, had the potential to attract 108 events and 184,500 attendees per year, according to the consultant’s report.
That option came with an annual financial loss estimate of $261,000.
The “non-tenant model,” which considered an arena that did not have an anchor tenant such as NU, had the potential to attract 98 events and 148,250 attendees per year, the consultant’s determined.
That option, according to CSL’s estimates, had the potential to run at nearly double an annual operating loss at $482,000 per year.
Moreover, it was revealed in late November 2022 that the Mayor was planning to borrow from its future allotment of federal community development funds to cover the cost of acquiring the land.
Rather than working with a group whose thorough plan would bring jobs, technological advancement, and a new park to the city without costing residents a dime, Mayor Restaino has continued to ignore top experts, instead favoring a quick, thoughtless plan that wastes public funds, doesn’t help residents, and fights for land the city doesn’t own.