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Canalside guesstimates 1 million visitors, plans more improvements

As the Canalside summer festival season ends, officials are talking about plans for next year as they declare this year a success.

The Canalside boardwalk will be under construction starting at the end of the month, as it gets extended further south. Silos will be lit up in November. The beach area also will be expanded, and rebuilt during the off-season. And bike pathway improvements – including new trails, signage and landscaping – are planned at the southern entrance to Canalside, officials said Tuesday.

Beyond that, improvements – including a new landing with kiosks – will be made to the bike ferry dock, and plans continue to bring a children’s museum to the waterfront.

Canalside officials talked about the planned improvements during a news conference at the site Tuesday featuring Robert D. Gioia, president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., as well as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and several state lawmakers.

Canalside officials pegged the number of summer 2015 visitors at 1 million, but Gioia said the figure is basically an educated guess. In fact, it’s the same overall estimate a Canalside spokeswoman said was used last year.

There are, indications, however, that attendance increased substantially over the past year based on events for which there are actual attendance numbers. The number of concertgoers, for example, increased by more than 30 percent to 160,000 – roughly 50,000 more than the prior year, officials said.

Also, the Queen City Bike Ferry, new this summer, attracted 48,000 passengers.

There were also 16,000 paddle and pedal boat passengers this summer as well as almost 3,950 sailboat rentals.

Beyond that, there were the many visitors at Canalside every day, walking around, participating in events such as Zumba, Pilates and other classes, Canalside officials said.

Gioia said the 1 million estimate is based on events the corporation does have actual numbers for, and then extrapolated estimates for other events throughout the season.

While the concert season is over, Canalside officials noted that a Maritime Festival will be held this weekend featuring the U.S. Brig Niagara and many wooden antique boats. A Halloween exhibit is set for October.

Paddle boats will continue as long as weather permits, Gioia said, and ice skating will resume when weather permits.