Developer cancels plans for Niagara Falls water park attraction

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Niagara Falls developer Michael DiCienzo says plans for an indoor water park in Niagara Falls are dead.

“We were hopeful that the situation may change. It hasn’t. We really had to make a hard decision to cancel the project,” DiCienzo tells News 4.

In January, DiCienzo told News 4 that his company had plans to build a $20 million water park at the north end of his Sheraton property in the Cataract City, but he says New York State economic development officials passed on his request for a $2 million grant.

Without the funding, he says the project is dead.

DiCienzo says the $10 million his company planned to invest in the water park will go elsewhere, likely to the Canadian side of the falls where his company operates other properties.

“It’s a business decision, but it’s also personally disappointing on our end, but we’ve got a lot of different plans in other markets and we need to start moving forward with those plans,” he said.

The state has committed Buffalo Billion funding for the proposed Wonder Falls project at the former Rainbow Mall site in downtown Niagara Falls.

Uniland Development was selected as the preferred developer for the Wonder Falls proposal over DiCienzo’s company.

The project’s design, which includes a year-round indoor water park, was announced a few years ago.

According to the state, between design and construction, it could take another two years before the resort opens.

DiCienzo decided to move forward with a water park project of his own. His company already operates one of three water parks on the Canadian side of the falls.

He says while water parks work well in clusters, he doesn’t understand the state’s decision to back only one.

“They funded other hotels and they all compete against each other. Water park attraction is much needed and you’re shutting the door on that,” DiCienzo said.

DiCienzo praised other local and county agencies that “stepped up” with funding and tax incentives.

“You’re bringing people in the market and you give them choices and they come back to the market more frequently to visit those choices, and that’s what makes the market very successful from a water park standpoint, and it’s very successful in Niagara Falls, Canada,” he added.

Christopher Schoepflin, vice president of Empire State Development in Western New York, says DiCienzo’s properties have benefited from state funding in the past, and that he hopes to work with him on future projects.

“Certainly, the private sector has the right to make their own decisions and place their capital as they see fit. We’re disappointed, and hopeful that we can work with him in the future,” Schoepflin said.

According to ESD, the state has given DiCienzo $600,000 for two previous projects.

  •   TGIF $75,000
  •   Rainforest Cafe  $525,000

Agency officials also tell News 4 that DiCienzo’s Sheraton at the Falls on Third Street received a $6 million investment in 2006 when the property was undergoing tens of millions of dollars in renovations under a previous owner.

“We want to garner all the investment we can, but I think also sometimes the state has to make strategic decisions about its investment with our limited capital dollars as well,” Schoepflin added.

State development officials say there’s been an “enormous” amount of hotel investment in Niagara Falls already — more than $200 million worth, not including the proposed Wonder Falls resort.

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