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Revised Wonder Falls waterpark design presented

Niagara Falls is continuing its quest to keep people in the Cataract City for an extra hour, an extra day or even on those winter days when its frozen natural wonder of the world is a spectacle.

Uniland Development met with the Niagara Falls City Council Monday to talk about the latest version of its Wonder Falls plan. This $150 million plan would replace the old Rainbow Center Mall with a 14-story hotel tower and a giant enclosed waterpark, located between the Culinary Institute and a parking ramp.

A start date is not clear and a lot of significant details, like the financing package, have yet to be nailed down, according to Senior Development Manager Kellena Kane.

"Once we have shovels in the ground, we're looking at 24 months," Kane says, "and between now and construction, we're looking at refining the design further, the project cost, also reaching out to operation partners and looking at the financial side of the project to get lenders and equity investors on board, too."

Kane says the plan is for so many pools and attractions it will attract everyone from families with kids to older singles at different pools.

"To capture as much of the market as we can," Kane says. "The traditional waterpark only really appeals to kids only or the families with kids and, even then, it might be just a sliver, whether it's younger kids or middle-aged or teenagers. Our concept has evolved to really appeal to families with kids, as well as adult-only groups."

Mayor Paul Dyster says the project is an important tourism element.

"This project fills a couple of different niches," says Dyster. "It gives us an attraction that can be marketed 12 months out of the year. It answers the question, 'What else is there to do in Niagara Falls besides go look at the Falls?' But I think many of us recognize that it's important even during the peak of the summer season to have something that people can do after dark, when it's raining, when it's cold."

Dyster says there are only a few alternative attractions, like the Aquarium of Niagara. He says the design also includes a pedestrian walkthrough to better connect the state park and downtown.

Construction would take two years, once design and financing are set.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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