American tourism officials had hoped for a later date -- possibly in September -- for Nik Wallenda to perform his tightrope walk over Niagara Falls.
But they're more than happy with the date government officials on both sides of the international border and the daredevil artist have agreed upon -- June 15.
Officials on the U.S. side had hoped for a date after Labor Day because they wanted more time to plan, and because the 2,000 downtown hotel rooms are typically booked through the summer tourist season without such a big event.
Canadian officials preferred a June date because it would kick off their already-bustling summer tourist season. Roughly 16,000 hotel rooms will be available in Niagara Falls, Ont., with 10,000 located directly around the falls.
With the date now set, the ultimate goal is to draw visitors to the two cities and send them home with a desire to return, tourism officials on both sides said.
"We've got to make the best of it that we can," said John Percy, president and chief executive of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. "I think we'll hit the ground running. We have to plan to put Niagara Falls in the best light that we possibly can."
Officials in Albany agreed to the date Wednesday and were expected to sign the deal by today.
The agreement with the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation sets the date for June 15 and calls for Wallenda to pick up the state's costs -- for security, preparation work and maintenance -- of about $150,000, an official in Albany said Wednesday. That does not include other costs Wallenda will incur, including expenses for a rescue helicopter and costs borne by Canada.
The event, already attracting worldwide media attention, is expected to bring out tens of thousands of spectators for the 1,800-foot walk between Goat Island and Table Rock on the Canadian side of the falls.
It needed an act of the State Legislature to happen and is expected to be broadcast live nationally. Wallenda recently told an Ontario newspaper that Canadian officials had signed off on the June 15 date, but that he was awaiting word from New York State.
"We're going to make sure the event comes off perfectly in the eyes of the world so that [visitors] leave with a positive perception of Niagara Falls," Percy said.
After the deal is signed, he said, Niagara County's lead tourism agency will launch a central Wallenda walk website -- accessed from www.niagara-usa.com -- with logistics of the event and a place to book hotel packages. The site also will include details about possible ticket sales for viewing areas at the state park and a list of activities for travelers around the city and other parts of Western New York.
The tourism agency has been working with officials from the state, city and conference center to coordinate a series of events in the city the week of the stunt, Percy said. Those activities will soon be finalized and stakeholders will meet twice each week.
"We're going to have to work very quickly here, very strategically," he said, "making sure that the core event is well-orchestrated and planned and organized efficiently, so that [during] the core two hours or three hours, everything comes off perfectly and everyone has the best experience they're planning on having."
The agency had already purchased television and Internet advertising in Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Rochester. Those spots, which will air May 21, will be tagged with the wire-walk information.
"It's going to really put Niagara Falls in an international spotlight," said Melissa Morinello, marketing director of the tourism agency. "It's great advertising for us moving forward, just to have Nik walking in front of that backdrop."
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