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Illuminated emblem to show new Falls hotel in fine feather

The Senecas will top their new hotel with a five-story high-definition television screen shaped like a feather, an embellishment expected to outshine anything across the border and be visible as far away as the upper floors of some buildings in downtown Buffalo.

The feather -- made of steel, aluminum and 132,000 light-emitting diodes -- was built at the top of the new 26-story Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel and extends about one story above the tallest part of the structure. There also will be 19-story illuminated waterfall symbols on two sides of the building, which already sports a 10-by-14-foot high-definition television displaying images of Niagara Falls.

The feather, waterfalls and rectangular screen display moving images and words, and can be color-coordinated.

The $1.7 million graphics will make a noticeable mark on the city's skyline. The 51-foot glowing feather is expected to be the brightest landmark visible from across the Canadian border, according to Newton Technologies, the manufacturer.

"On a clear day you can see the hotel from Rich Stadium," said Dennis Ryan, the Korea-based company's director of sales in North America and a Buffalo resident.

The company also made the wrap-around television screen in New York City's Times Square and built the world's largest digital screen for Fremont Street in Las Vegas.

Ryan described the feather as one of the most difficult projects Newton Technologies has undertaken, with installation taking about a month.

The feather was supposed to be ready for testing by today, but cold weather and wind have delayed wiring the system. The company hopes to test it in about a week and to have it ready for a lighting ceremony Dec. 30 at the official opening of the hotel, he added.

"There's nothing like this in America right now," Ryan said. "There will be a generation of people growing up in the shadow of a feather."

The single feather is recognized within the Iroquois Confederacy as the symbol of the Seneca Nation of Indians. That constant representation and the illuminated waterfall -- an effect to be created by inverted L-shaped lighting facing toward and away from the falls -- will be part of a light show displayed for several minutes each hour.

"The tradition and heritage of the Seneca Nation of Indians is reflected throughout Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel," Barry E. Snyder Sr., Seneca president, said in a statement. "This feather, our traditional symbol, will signify to all visitors and passers-by that this magnificent facility was built through the vision, hard work and determination of the Seneca Nation of Indians."

As of this week, many area officials had not heard about the plans. Whether residents and city leaders will view the addition as glitz or glare remains to be seen.

The Seneca hotel is six stories taller than allowed under the city's zoning ordinance for that part of downtown. But the Senecas' agreement with the state allows them to bypass the city's Planning Board in developing their 52-acre tract in downtown Niagara Falls.

"There's no regulatory framework, and businesses that have no regulatory framework tend to do what will make them the most money," said Paul Dyster, a former city councilman, who expressed disappointment that the state compact does not require more communication about construction plans.

"People in the community are going to have mixed feelings about this," said Dyster, a member of the new Niagara Greenway Commission.

"They'll see it as a sign that things are happening in downtown Niagara Falls and it's beginning to be competitive with Canada," Dyster added. "Most would say having some more glitz downtown is a good thing. It used to be a glitzy downtown."

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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