Officials want study to look at feasibility of a Falls convention center, arena - The Buffalo News

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Officials want study to look at feasibility of a Falls convention center, arena

NIAGARA FALLS - One union official envisions an arena with up to 10,000 seats -- something with ice and hardwood.

A county legislator wonders what kind minor league sports team or concerts might be drawn to a new multi-use facility in the Falls.

One wants it downtown, while the other thinks it could be anywhere in the city.

A study expected to be approved in a few months and completed by October would provide the details state and local officials will need to evaluate the notion of a new convention center and arena in Niagara Falls.

"I think it's a great idea, and I'm for the study," said Majority Leader Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda. "We need to find out the details."

Niagara County's Economic Development Department plans to release a request for proposals for a feasibility study on Wednesday, said Christian W. Peck, the county's public information officer.

Richard Palladino, business manager of Laborers Local 91, envisions a wide variety of events at a facility with 5,000 to 10,000 seats.

"I would like to see something with ice, something with hardwood, so it can be versatile," Palladino said.

County Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls, said he would like to see a seating capacity of at least 8,000 in a facility that could be used for sports, concerts and other special events.

"What kind of minor league sports would Niagara Falls attract? We need to get a professional answer," Zona said.

Boxing or mixed martial arts events also could be booked into such an arena, Zona said.

Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls and New York State each agreed to pay $50,000 for the study.

The county estimated the total cost at $150,000, Peck said. But Zona and Palladino said they think it can be done considerably cheaper.

The County Legislature is expected to pass procedural measures at its meeting Tuesday, such as accepting the money from the city and the state.

Bradt doesn't expect any problems passing the measures. The Legislature appropriated its $50,000 share unanimously.

A convention center was constructed in Niagara Falls in 1973, but as time went on the facility was used less frequently. Eventually, it was turned over to the Seneca Nation of Indians, which converted it into the Seneca Niagara Casino in 2002.

Palladino said he wants a new multi-use facility located in downtown Niagara Falls, where Niagara Falls Redevelopment owns large areas of vacant land surrounding the Senecas' casino and hotel.

"If the study says that would be the best location, I would definitely be in favor of that," Palladino said.

Niagara Falls needs something to bring visitors to the new hotels, especially in the colder months, he said.

"There has to be something more than what's happening now," Palladino said. "We're going to lose some of these hotels, because they can't do it 12 months a year. They'll be OK for six (months)."

"It's not specifically for downtown Niagara Falls," Zona said. "It could land anywhere in the city."

The request for proposals for a feasibility study will ask consulting firms to respond within 30 days and to produce a report in four or five months, Zona said.

Among the questions to be answered would be who would own a new facility.

"Generally, these are public projects, because arenas usually aren't money makers," Zona said.

If a new facility is built in Niagara Falls, it's likely a private company would be hired to manage it, he said.

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