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New tourist boat service planned between North Tonawanda, Niagara Falls

NORTH TONAWANDA – A new plan for a tourist boat service between Niagara Falls and this city will add to an expanding array of summer diversions near the waterfront that includes an expanded concert series at Gratwick Park, a second downtown series and the new Niagara River Cruises expected to dock near the Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange.

“People are looking for things to do when they’re in their hotel rooms,” Robin Hoch said after the Tuesday workshop session where the Common Council enthusiastically listened to details. The tour boat with bench seating named Queen of Peace has room for 45 passengers, will cruise between the Four Points Sheraton in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda.

It will give tourists one more way to take advantage of the concerts and restaurants and the waterfront, said Hoch, who is partnering with a friend and fellow Grand Island boater, Tom Hauser.

“People spend a day at the Falls. They spend a day at the casino, and then they’re, like, ‘OK, what do we do next?’ ” said Hoch, who has a construction management business.

The Council is expected to formally approve the plan in coming weeks, and Hoch said the boat should be running by Memorial Day weekend.

“We’ve been pretty good at getting Western New Yorkers down to North Tonawanda, but we haven’t been that good at getting real tourists that come to Niagara Falls,” Council President Richard L. Andres Jr. said of the new boat ride for tourists. “We need to branch out into those areas.”

Hoch said she planned to have boat rides that fit with the timing of concert series, including a newly expanded, three Niagara River Rocks shows at Gratwick Park and a second summer of four tribute band concerts on Saturdays on Webster Street hosted by Greg Doel, owner of Crazy Jake’s restaurant.

Bands for most July dates have yet to be announced, but the last show, Aug. 3, will a band that plays in the style of Bon Jovi and Journey.

While the series attracted about 2,500, it did not make money last year, said Doel, who hopes to eventually double attendance by getting the word out.

The Council has yet to vote on approval for another season, but Andres expects to support Doel. “He felt there was some momentum there,” Andres said. “We’re willing to stick with them.”

The Council also:

• Went into a special voting session and lifted the on-street parking ban, intended to make snowplowing easier, instead of waiting until it usually ends April 15. “It’s crummy out,” Mayor Robert G. Ortt said, “but it’s looking like mostly it’s going to be rain.

• Discussed a plan to work with the SPCA of Niagara to apply for grants to spay and neuter feral cats.