NIAGARA FALLS, ON. (WIVB) - The oldest tourist attraction in the world will be in new hands next year. The Glynn family has lost the lease to operate the Maid the Mist fleet in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company will no longer operate its tour boats from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Hornblower Canada Company is taking over, after the Niagara Parks Commission put the contract for the tour boats up for bid.
Niagara Parks Chair Janice Thomson said, "Every year, more than one-and-a-half million visitors experience the raw power and the majesty of Niagara Falls from the deck of a tour boat. Now, that experience will be better than ever."
Hornblower's 30-year contract is worth over $500 million. Maid of the Mist has a separate, 40-year agreement with New York State Parks for its American operations. But its docks and storage are all in Canada, on land to which Hornblower now has the rights.
"That would be up to Hornblower, to approach the Niagara Parks Commission for permission for any sublease of the land," explained Thomson.
If Maid of the Mist loses access to that space, President Chris Glynn, says, "Our business, with a 165-year history of service to tourists around the world may soon come to an end."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "There's a great deal of uncertainty now. I think a lot of us that are stakeholders in this are waiting for the dust to settle."
The landscape of the Niagara Gorge presents logistical challenges to building new docks on the American side. The rapids would make it hard to move the Maid of the Mist downriver.
"We certainly, in the City of Niagara Falls, New York, have a very strong interest in having a tour boat attraction operating on the U.S. side. And we're going to try to facilitate that going forward," Dyster said.
The name of the new Canadian tour boat is also in question. The Glynn family has filed trademarks for sole use of "Maid of the Mist."
Hornblower is projected to bring $60 million into the Niagara Parks Commission's general fund during its first five years of operation. Maid of the Mist has the option of continuing its service in Canada until Hornblower is ready to step in, in the spring of 2014.
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