Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 9, 2012

Tour-boat companies prepare to share river

Niagara Gazette — NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — It’s premature to discuss potential problems with having two companies running boat tours in the Niagara River, says a spokeswoman with Hornblower.

“It is too soon to predict any problems or challenges,” said Tegan Firth when asked if having Maid of the Mist operate from the American shore and Hornblower from the Canadian side will make life more difficult for both parties.

“We have always held the position that two operators in the gorge is not ideal.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal with Maid of the Mist operators last week to allow the longtime tour boat company to continue operations on the U.S. side of the falls.

Under the amended agreement, the Maid will increase its licence payments to New York State Parks, projected to reach $105 million during the 30 years remaining on the contract. The money is three times larger than the revenues projected when the contract was initially approved in 2002.

Cuomo’s announcement comes 10 months after Canadian officials with the Niagara Parks Commission awarded a 30-year, $500-million contract to California-based Hornblower to provide boat tours from the Canadian side of the river, starting in 2014. It ended the Maid of the Mist’s decades-old presence on the Canadian side.

That decision led some to wonder whether the Maid business could continue because the company has used property it leases from Niagara Parks to store all of its boats since there is no such location on the American side.

On Tuesday, Cuomo said the Glynn family that owns the Maid of the Mist plans to invest $32 million in the former Schoellkopf Power Station on the U.S. side to make it suitable for winter storage and maintenance of its tour boats, and to provide amenities for public use and recreational activities. Upon completion, State Parks will own the improved facilities.

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