Following controversy in Florida, Hochul invites Disney to build a theme park in Niagara Falls

Governor Kathy Hochul has privately reached out to senior executives and board members of the Walt Disney Company, headquartered in Burbank, California, to extend an invitation to open a new theme park in Niagara Falls, New York.

The invite comes in the aftermath of political controversy surrounding the company’s engagement in Florida politics in recent months, and the legislative backlash prompted by Governor Ron DeSantis that has stripped the firm of development incentives that helped finance the construction of Walt Disney World, including tax benefits and zoning exemptions.

Hochul wants Disney to construct a 140-acre open air ‘cultural garden’ that would serve as public park that accommodates several ticketed attractions for tourists, including a 550-ft tall Ferris wheel, a 20,000-seat arena event center, a 3,000-ft tall observation tower similar to Toronto’s CN Tower, a tropical biosphere, an arctic biosphere, a museum of natural history, botanic gardens, and elaborate exhibition grounds.

Sources familiar with her thinking say that Hochul would support state legislation creating a special zoning district over a 140-acre swath of land in downtown Niagara Falls that sits ready for shovel ready projects.  Acquiring that land from Niagara Falls Redevelopment could cost Disney between $300 million and $400 million.

“The attraction would be designed as an exposition space that would be seasonally programmed, so that every date on the calendar becomes a special reason to visit — whether during a winter festival of lights, a Fourth of July firework extravaganza, Octoberfest, or St. Patricks Day,” the source explains.

“This will help us make Niagara Falls a year-round attraction, and will help pull millions of Canadians across the border each year to partake in unique entertainment experiences,” he adds.

NFR has been doing the grueling work of acquiring parcels, demolishing dilapidated buildings, and preparing the site for development over the last two decades and is likely to demand a hefty price for such a globally unique property.

Disney operates twelve major theme parks globally, including several located on its 25,000-acre Walt Disney World campus near Orlando, Florida; and others in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Anaheim, and Shanghai.  The firm’s market capitalization at the close of trading on April 29th was more than $203 billion.

Urban planners have been advancing a long term urban design plan for downtown Niagara Falls that would recreate the system of hydro canals that once traversed the city.  They have been calling on the Seneca Nation of Indians, Niagara Falls Redevelopment, the City of Niagara Falls, and the State of New York to collaborate on a wide-ranging economic development strategy that would elevate the destination to rival Las Vegas. 

 

Hochul plans to invest heavily in Niagara Falls. The State is currently planning the reconstruction of the Niagara Falls State Park Visitors Center, pictured above.

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