NIAGARA FALLS -- A 65-foot snow tubing hill and a synthetic ice rink planned for vacant land two blocks from the Rainbow Bridge is now slated to be finished in June and to operate as a year-round attraction.
Representatives for Tuscarora entrepreneur Joseph Anderson said Wednesday that the snow park planned for a parcel at First and Main streets will operate four tubing runs with man-made snow and a regulation hockey-sized skating rink during the summer months.
Six tubing chutes will operate in the winter months.
"It will make snow in 90 degree weather," Adam S. Walters, an attorney for Phillips Lytle, told the city's Planning Board. "Currently, there is a snow hill in Dubai, in the desert."
Joseph Anderson, who operates Smokin' Joe's gasoline and cigarette outlets, initially pitched the snow park as a temporary site that would operate only a few months a year. The project was transformed into a year-round attraction "based on the cost of capital," Walters said.
The city Planning Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a site plan for the project. The proposal will go before the city Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday for a special-use permit.
The limited-liability company set up for the project, Snow Park, is also seeking a 10-year break on its property taxes from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.
Anderson is the company's sole owner, according to the IDA application.
The IDA will hold a public hearing on the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, at 4:30 p.m. March 19 in City Hall, with a final vote by the board expected at its April 8 meeting.
Both members of the Planning Board and the IDA's board of directors responded positively to the project Wednesday.
Planning Board member Michael F. Lewis said he had been to a similar snow park in an urban area of Japan.
"It was just an amazing sight to see this mound of snow in the city," Lewis said.
The snow park, estimated to cost $5.2 million, will be built on a 2.79-acre piece of land bounded by Main, First and Second streets, according to the IDA application.
It will use artificial snow and synthetic ice to create an outdoor winter experience 12 months a year, said Albert Crogan, an engineer who works for Anderson.
Crogan said the main features of the facility will be a snow tubing hill and a 200-by-85-foot skating rink made with a synthetic surface called "Superglide."
The tubing hill will be covered with artificial snow to be made on site, Crogan said. The snow-making process will be different than what is typically used on ski hills.
"If you guys ever had a sno-cone, it's more like that material. It's more like chipped ice than powdery snow," Crogan told the IDA board.
Crogan said SnowMagic Entertainment, a New Jersey-based company providing the artificial winter system, suggested a year-round facility, similar to existing snow parks in Stone Mountain, Ga., Mobile, Ala., and Oklahoma City.
A 100-ton snowmaking unit has already been purchased, according to the company's PILOT application.
However, no refrigeration system will be used to keep things frozen. Crogan said the park will use an average of 11,000 gallons of water per day, with the tubing hill's permeable plastic surface draining into an underground detention basin.
The company is also considering developing a system to reuse water from the detention basin, but that hasn't been designed yet.
IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma praised the project.
"We need more attractions outside of the Seneca compact area," he said.
The project's PILOT application estimates 47 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs in the first year, with that number rising to 66 in the second year. The total payroll for the first two years would be $2.2 million.
Taxes on the Anderson-owned lot are $55,000 a year now. The IDA staff estimates that the taxes would rise to $127,000 a year after the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes expires.
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