Work has started on the latest attraction on the Canadian side of the falls -- a big Russian circus, along the lines of Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil.
Cirque Niagara, a $10 million production featuring dozens of acrobats, dancers and 18 ancient breeds of horses, will open May 20 in Rapidsview Park, near Marineland. It initially will run until Oct. 8, although city officials expect it to soon become a year-round attraction.
"This attraction will become a permanent fixture in the city," said Jim Williams, chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission.
Tickets will go on sale Thursday. Details are available online at www.cirqueniagara.com or by calling (877) 247-7831.
The parks commission teamed up with members of the Kantemirov circus family to bring the show to the city. Nikolay D. Smirnov, Russia's consul general in Toronto, said the circus will attract even more tourists from around the world to Niagara Falls.
"I have brought delegations to Niagara Falls so many times in the past three years I've stopped counting," Smirnov told local dignitaries who gathered recently in the Doubletree Resort Lodge and Spa on Fallsview Boulevard to hear the announcement.
"This is going to be a huge attraction," Mayor R.T. "Ted" Salci said. "We anticipate 300,000 visitors in the first year alone."
The 60,000-square-foot tent will seat 1,700 people for two performances, at 5 and 8 p.m. daily.
"I don't think there's anything more exciting than a circus," said Michael Burgess, a Canadian actor who was master of ceremonies for the announcement.
Rob Nicholson, the federal member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, said the city has become a showplace for the entire country.
"This announcement is part of a continuum that has seen so many developments in Niagara Falls just in the past two years," he said. "People see a pattern developing here."
Tourism officials on the New York side of the border are striving to weave that pattern into the fabric of their own city, where the differences are immediately evident to visitors, the Russian consul noted.
Guests at the announcement were shown a video of circus highlights, followed by a live performance in the hotel lobby by several Cirque Niagara dancers, whose gravity-defying acrobatics drew spontaneous cries of joy and wonder from the audience.