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Seneca Gaming plans video billboard for top of Niagara Falls casino tower

The Niagara Falls skyline in New York will soon look a little more like the Niagara Falls skyline in Canada.

The Seneca Gaming Corp. on Monday announced it is building a billboard-sized video screen atop its Niagara Falls casino.

Like its competitors across the Niagara River, the Seneca casino by month's end will display the word "CASINO" from atop its 26-story tower.

But unlike the Canadian gambling halls, the LED screen on the hotel tower will also be able to flash promotions or display live video like a giant television.

Officials said they want to erect the $1.9 million sign, which faces the Canadian side of the falls, to distinguish the largely unmarked casino as a premier attraction on the American side.

"Tourists at the falls will no longer ask the question, 'What is that hotel tower there?' " said Jim Wise, senior vice president of marketing for Seneca Gaming Corp.

The Senecas wanted to give the Niagara Falls casino, which dominates the city's skyline, more flash and label it like the other Seneca casinos in Buffalo and Salamanca.

While the "CASINO" label will be applied first, the LED screen will likely advertise the concert series, restaurants and other attractions at Seneca Niagara. It will be visible from Niagara Falls State Park and other areas around the falls.

"This is pointing to the millions of people, including those on the U.S. side, who may be walking two blocks away and say, 'I don't know what that is,' " Wise said. "It will announce for all that this is not just a casino."

The sign will be designed and built by Yesco, a Las Vegas company best known for its "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign at the entrance to that city. Casino officials said the company is the standard bearer for entertainment signage.

The sign will be 20 feet tall and 108 feet wide, they said, or roughly twice as long as a typical highway billboard. It will be built with 64,000 pounds of steel and 140 LED panels.

The hotel tower serves as the centerpiece of the city's skyline, which lacks many of the high-rise structures seen in Canada. Since the structure opened in 2005, Seneca officials have touted it as the tallest hotel tower in the state outside of Manhattan.

"Yet even though our hotel dominates the city's skyline something was missing," said Robert Mele, chairman of the gaming corporation's board of directors.

Seneca officials then decided to identify the casino more clearly, they said, along the lines of displays across the river. But updated technology allowed them to build the LED screen for a wider variety of announcements.

City officials have said the hotel is built on sovereign Seneca Nation of Indians property and is not subject to city permits, building codes or height restrictions.

Wise, the Seneca marketing official, said locals who believe the American side should stay away from the glitz and glamour of Canada's skyline shouldn't compare the two areas.

"I don't think we're trying to be more like Canada," Wise said. "We're trying to be more like an entertainment attraction. You look at the major destinations, and they have this kind of thing."