A new attraction has opened at the Cave of the Winds in Niagara Falls, offering guests a year-round facility to learn about the natural wonder's history. It's also the latest completed project in an overall $70 million investment to update Niagara Falls State Park.
The new $7 million "pre-show" center provides visitors a series of display and a screening room in which they may watch a video showcasing the early history of Niagara Falls, New York. The video played during the ceremonial opening of the center Monday spotlighted the area's role as an industrial hub until Frederick Law Olmsted visited Niagara Falls and had a vision to convert it to park space.
Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster lives not far from where those water-powered factories once stood.
"It's always, in the past, driven me crazy that so many visitors from around the world come here, they look at the beauty of Niagara Falls and they leave without knowing this story of great global significance," Dyster said.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was among the dignitaries in attendance. She spoke of what the new facility offers.
"There's an interactive program that unfolds the natural and cultural history of the falls, called 'Drawn to the Edge,' and describes the path from natural power to electric power and how the early innovators made that journey," Hochul said. "In 'The World Changed Here' exhibit, visitors will see a film about how the falls inspired geniuses like Olmsted and (Nikola) Tesla."
The third new element is called 'Prepare for Power,' where guests get ready to descend 175 into the gorge and the Cave of the Winds. During the off-season, when the decks are closed, this portion will become a multi-purpose room offering views of the Falls.
The new center is the latest update Niagara Falls State Park. Completed recent projects include a new pedestrian plaza with updated dining and concession areas, and the relocation of the Nikola Tesla statue to Stedman's Bluff, which overlooks the Horseshoe and Bridal Veil Falls.
State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, whose district includes Niagara Falls, says the local natural wonder offers something to tourists that many other places cannot, a look at the genuine article.
"We travel many places, we go into exhibits and then they give us artificial views of what they're trying to teach us," Morinello said. "What's unique here today is not only do we get a view of what is a natural wonder, we can experience the actual wonder, no Disneyland recreation."
The $70 million upgrade of Niagara Falls State park is part of Governor Cuomo's multi-year, $900 million state investment plan known as NY Parks 2020. Hochul said the Cuomo Administration appreciates the economic impact tourism leaves, especially in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
"The State of New York has realized that this is a $103 billion business statewide, with a $3 billion impact here in Western New York, much of it driven by this mighty Niagara Falls," she said.