Niagara Fallsview Casino Theatre Proposal Would Block Views of Falls

Posted on: April 24, 2017, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: April 24, 2017, 03:59h.

The Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort puts slots and table games just steps from the most famous falls in North America, but a proposed 5,000-seat theatre being considered by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) is being panned by city officials and neighboring hotels.

Niagara Fallsview Casino theatre proposal
The Niagara Fallsview Casino complex in the distance might soon hoist a new theatre adjacent to its tower, and that has hotels behind the resort upset over sight lines to the falls. (Image: Niagara Fallsview Casino)

Owned by the OLG, the Niagara Fallsview Casino sits just north of the iconic tourist destination on the Canadian side. The $1 billion complex, opened in 2004, is one of the most prominent features of the Horseshoe Falls skyline.

Though Niagara Fallsview has one tall tower, the rest of the complex is relatively short in stature, at only a few floors high. That’s to allow the numerous hotels behind the casino to also have views of the falls.

But Niagara Fallsview’s 1,500-seat theatre is no longer adequate to house A-list talent, and OLG is readying to build a 5,000-seat space. Three locations are being considered, one being on top of the bus terminal that serves the Niagara Fallsview complex.

Niagara Falls officials including Mayor Jim Diodati are opposing the bus terminal location. In a report, the city says “the loss of rooms with views of the falls could have a financial impact on hotel revenue, and perhaps value and assessment which has an impact on the municipal tax base.”

OLG Exempt From Rules

The waterfront area of Niagara Falls is subjected to development rules that stipulate how high buildings can be constructed in certain areas. When the hotels behind the casino complex were erected, they were built with the understanding that their views would remain unimpeded.

But the OLG, a government entity of the Ontario province, isn’t subject to local zoning rules. OLG did, however, enter into a Development Agreement with Niagara Falls “in principle,” and agreed not to build higher than certain heights.

“Tourism invested hundreds of millions of dollars based on an understanding of . . . where the sight lines were going to be,” Diodati told the Niagara Falls Review. “They took a lot of risk in good faith.”

Two privately owned land parcels are also being considered by the OLG for the theatre. All three bids are being privately funded in exchange for the right to operate the music and concert facility.

The gaming regulator is expected to make its decision on the winning proposal next month.

Casinos Bet on Entertainment

Casino resorts across the United States and North America are targeting millennials by booking hipper concert acts. That’s led to a need for bigger entertainment spaces, and gaming operators are betting big on new facilities.

In addition to Fallsview, the OLG additionally owns Casino Niagara just a mile north. Casino Niagara is an older resort that dates back to 1996, and doesn’t feature concert space. But directly across the Niagara River on the US side, the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, owned by the Seneca Nation of Indians, features a 2,400-seat events center and more intimate 440-seat theater.

Seneca and Fallsview will compete for top-tier talent in an ongoing effort to get patrons inside their doors.