LOCKPORT – Niagara County’s building trades unions say downtown Niagara Falls needs a multipurpose events center, and they’re asking the New York Power Authority to pay for a feasibility study.
“I’d like to see a convention center, but something better than we had years ago,” said Richard Palladino, business manager of Laborers Local 91 and one of the forces behind the proposal for what the group calls the Niagara County Event Center. Palladino formed a limited liability company of that name last month.
Palladino said electricians, iron workers and operating engineers unions in Niagara County also are part of the push for a project that would combine a large events space with the opportunity for sporting events, perhaps including an indoor ice rink.
“These four crafts don’t have any work. The operating engineers are 46 percent unemployed. The Laborers have 50 people sitting on a bench since November with no place to go,” Palladino said.
The project is only in the conceptual stages. There are no cost estimates, no drawings and no firm location, although Palladino said he thinks a spot on the vacant property owned by Niagara Falls Redevelopment around the Seneca Niagara Casino makes sense.
The convention center built in the 1970s, which also was used for concerts, basketball games and other events, was turned over to the Seneca Nation and converted into the casino more than a decade ago.
The Niagara County Legislature voted unanimously Thursday to endorse the labor group’s application to the Power Authority’s Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board for money to conduct a feasibility study.
The measure was co-sponsored by the two party leaders, but Majority Leader Randy R. Bradt said he was endorsing only a study at this time.
“I’m not endorsing or unendorsing the project,” said Bradt, R-North Tonawanda. “I agree the feasibility study is needed to see what we should do next.”
Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls, liked the bipartisan aspect of Thursday’s resolution. “I think it’s important the state sees it’s a full-county effort,” he said. “We’re in a world-known city and we have to turn down events because we don’t have a facility the right size.”
Palladino said the application was sent to NYPA about a month ago with no response. NYPA spokesman Paul DeMichele said Friday that a pre-application was received and the Power Authority staff will respond to it soon. After that, a more detailed application will be needed. “It’s certainly in motion, and everyone is aware of it,” DeMichele said.
Palladino said he wasn’t sure how much the study would cost – no figure was included in the pre-application – but he knows that Niagara Falls needs more year-round activity. “Otherwise all those new hotels aren’t going to survive,” he said.