Niagara Falls, NY

Ground Breaks on $46 Million Welcome Center Project at Niagara Falls State Park

J.M. Lesinski
The Niagara River near Niagara Falls State Park.Photo by J.M. Lesinski

The oldest state park in the United States is getting a make-over, or at least the welcome center there is. Niagara Falls State Park in Niagara Falls, New York recently saw the beginning of construction on the new $46 million visitor center slated for the park.

"Niagara Falls is a wonder of the world unique to Western New York and it's awe-inspiring beauty has been preserved with Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the United States," New York State Governor Kathy Hochul remarked of the project. "This new Welcome Center builds on our work to showcase all of the landmark gems that New York State has to offer, attracting visitors from around the world and boosting our tourism economy."

The new visitor center is expected to be 28,000 square feet and will feature a new pedestrian connection to the city’s downtown business district and Niagara Falls itself. The existing regional administration building on the property will be converted into a multi-purpose community room, regional archives, and offices for Niagara regional interpretive staff.

"Niagara Falls is an iconic destination in Western New York that draws millions of people from around the world each year," stated Congressman Brian Higgins. "The construction of a new visitor center establishes a modern entry point for visitors that better connects to the park's natural landscape and tells the stories of Niagara Falls' past and present."

In addition to the connection, the new visitor center will also include, new ticketing and information desks, concession spaces, improved restrooms and associated support spaces, and an interpretive museum space including an immersive experience and exhibits on a diversity of topics including natural, industrial, and Indigenous American history.

"The creation of this new welcome center will allow visitors to explore all of the history and experiences that our beautiful state park has to offer while expanding upon the completion of last year's Welcome Plaza,” New York State Senator Rob Ortt noted of the project. “The continued efforts to grow the connection between our state park and downtown Niagara Falls will only serve to benefit both entities and the residents who operate shops and restaurants within our city's business district. I commend New York State's continued commitment to the beautification and increased visitor immersion at the natural wonder of the world we are lucky enough to have located in our backyard."

In keeping with a commitment to green energy, many new power efficient amenities will be included, as well as the planting of over 100 new trees to fill the places of those removed during construction.

"We appreciate the continued improvements to our Niagara Falls State Park," said City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino. "The new Welcome Center will not only improve the initial visitor experience, but it also promises to add to it by exploring all that Niagara Falls has contributed to the growth of Western New York. I would like to thank Governor Hochul for her continued commitment to our city and our region."

The new visitor center will also include a rooftop solar array, green roof elements, a separate restroom building, new accessible paths, plantings, outdoor exhibits, and interpretive and wayfinding elements.

“I applaud Governor Hochul for her continued focus on ensuring that Niagara Falls State Park remains a world class destination,” New York State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello commented of the project. “The new center will assist the millions of visitors to not only learn and understand the history of the region, the significance the Falls itself but will also direct them to the downtown business district. This addition will add to the "Park within a City" vision and removal of any marriers between the Park and the City."

The designated contractor of the welcome center project is R.P. Oakhill, while the interior interpretive exhibits designer will be Haley Sharpe Design. Local not-for-profit, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, also has plans to contribute $8 million towards the project.

"The incredible level of detail and thoughtfulness put into the reimagined Welcome Center will contribute greatly towards enhancing and boosting Niagara's tourism and outdoor recreation economy,” remarked President and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation David O. Egner. “Through the Foundation's support, we're proud to help accelerate and advance the construction of this landmark project along the Niagara River Greenway."

Originally devised in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park holds the title of oldest state park in the nation and attracts roughly nine million visitors every year. Construction on the welcome center project is expected to wrap up by Memorial Day, 2023 and open again shortly thereafter.

"The investments that have been made to improve the Niagara Falls State Park over the last several years have been nothing short of extraordinary,” John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA said of the project. “A new, state-of-the-art facility that provides visitors with year-round access to a superior experience is a much needed and highly anticipated addition to the park. I commend New York State Parks for developing a facility that tells the stories of our region and its rich history which will encourage visitors to explore our entire destination."

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I have worked as a professional journalist for over five years now, covering the arts, music, food, politics, and culture up and down both coasts of the United States. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Fredonia with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno.

Buffalo, NY

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