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City of Tonawanda considers private manager for Niawanda Park Pavilion

The City of Tonawanda's $1.25 million Niawanda Park Pavilion along the picturesque Niagara River is a popular spot for private event rentals on weekends, but the city is discussing ways to make the site more profitable, including hiring a private management team.

The enclosed waterfront pavilion is booked through 2018 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. But it remains underused on less popular weekdays and in the off-season, according to Mayor Rick Davis. Bookings are currently made through the city's Parks and Recreation Office.

City Treasurer Joseph Hogenkamp told the Common Council this past week that the pavilion is making enough money for the city to pay for the day-to-day upkeep of the building, but not enough to fund major capital improvements.

One option for the city is selling naming rights for the building. Another option would be to pick a management team which would schedule events, provide exclusive catering and hopefully market the pavilion during off-peak times, said Davis.

The waterfront pavilion, which was completed in 2013, has a capacity of 131, is handicapped accessible, and has air conditioning, cable and Wi-Fi access. The fully enclosed pavilion also has a small prep kitchen with a six-burner stove, oven, refrigerator with freezer, microwave oven and large sinks. There are also round and rectangular banquet tables, a portable bar and an outdoor patio.

Former Mayor Ron Pilozzi listed the Niawanda Park Pavilion among his top achievements while in office. The pavilion was built with $877,000 in Greenway Commission funding, as well as state and city funds.

"The previous administration wanted to have a banquet-style facility that could take advantage of the panoramic views of the Niagara River," said Davis. He said the city recently added a projection screen to encourage use on weekdays for conferences and seminars.

Davis told the Common Council that he received an informal interest letter from one caterer, Berrafato's Catering. Owner Frank Berrafato is also the owner of Old Man River and Mississippi Mudds restaurants, both of which sit across from Niawanda Park.

But the Common Council and Davis agreed that the city would need to put out requests for proposals before choosing any management team.

The Common Council will discuss the pros and cons of choosing a management team at a future meeting.

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