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4,000 expected at youth gathering Religious convention returns to Falls

A year from now, the city will host 4,000 young people from across the United States, filling a quarter of the downtown hotel rooms, when it hosts the Joshua Revolution, formerly known as Youth for Christ.

The booking -- the largest convention for next year -- was announced Friday by the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

The influx for the Dec. 27-30 event will fill 850 hotel rooms, said John Percy, president of the convention corporation.

The city has 3,400 hotel rooms downtown, plus several hundred more along Niagara Falls Boulevard.

The organization last held its convention in Niagara Falls in 2001, but sought other venues when the city's convention center was swallowed up by the Seneca Niagara Casino project.

The new Conference Center Niagara Falls, which opened in May 2004, put the city back on the radar screen, Percy said.

"The first Youth for Christ convention was held here in 1993, and then every year until 2001," he added. "And now it's come back home."

Mike Chorey, executive director of the Joshua Revolution, said it's great to be back.

"After being in other cities for the last five years, we're excited to once again come to Niagara Falls," he said.

During the 2001 convention, which brought 6,000 members of the organization to the city, the economic impact totaled $2.1 million, Percy said. Although fewer attendees are expected for next year's convention, the economic benefit to the local economy still is expected to be in the $2 million range, he added.

"The numbers are phenomenal," Percy said. "With all those kids eating at local restaurants and patronizing local stores, the economic benefits radiate throughout the community. It's good for us, because the event comes during the holiday period when the city experiences a quiet period for conferences and conventions."

The spiritual organization consists of junior high and senior high school students. Pizza places and similar restaurants will benefit more than, say, the Seneca Niagara Casino, he noted.

"When the convention center went away, we fell off the radar screen," Percy added. "It takes a couple of years to get back, and now, I believe, we're back."

e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com

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