The New York Power Authority made good Tuesday on a promise to contribute $5 million toward the demolition of the aging observation tower that overlooks the American and Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls.
The 281-foot tall tower and its cantilevered platform that extends above the Niagara River gorge are to be torn down and to be replaced by elevators through the solid rock about 200 feet inland at a total cost of $20 million.
The aluminum, steel and glass tower was hailed as an architectural marvel when it was opened in 1961, but it now needs extensive repairs and a fresh coat of paint.
The Power Authority supported the original construction of the observation tower as one of the many enhancements that it made in the Niagara Falls area when the Niagara Power Project was built in Lewiston.
Meeting in the Power Authority office in Lewiston, Authority trustees came full circle Tuesday and approved the $5 million contribution toward tearing down the tower. The Maid of the Mist Corp. also will contribute $5 million, and the State of New York is to provide $10 million.
The Maid of the Mist, a privately-owned tour boat service, has a vital interest in the tower because elevators in the tower are the only access to the Maid of the Mist boat landing on the U.S. side of the Niagara River. The tour boats also use a separate landing on the Canadian side of the river.
The new elevators through the rock will lead to a tunnel that will serve the Maid of the Mist boats after the tower is removed.
No target date has been announced for completion of the project.
The Power Authority also announced Tuesday that its Power Vista, which provides a spectacular view of the Niagara River gorge at the power project in Lewiston, will be closed for 20 months beginning on Sept. 8 for a thorough renovation.
"The Power Vista is one of the area's most popular man-made tourist attractions, with attendance of nearly six million people since its opening in 1963," according to Power Authority Chairman C. D. Rappleyea.
When the renovation is finished, Rappleyea said, the Vista "will be like brand new, and will be an even more valuable part of the overall tourism effort here."
The Power Vista will remain open free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day.