Mayor pushes for Falls Event Center

A drawing by CJS Architects depicts a potential location for a new gateway to Niagara Falls, an event center with an entertainment and sports area, skating rink and parking area which is being called Centennial Park.

The City of Niagara Falls has determined that a proposed $150 million multi-use “event campus” known as Centennial Park would not have an adverse environmental impact.

As a result, city lawmakers will be asked during a special meeting tonight to accept the findings of the project’s environmental review, a step that could lead to the city using its power of eminent domain to acquire land needed for Centennial Park from its current owner, the private firm Niagara Falls Redevelopment.

The environmental assessment took into consideration the project’s potential impact on and around the 12 acres of NFR property Mayor Robert Restaino’s administration says would be ideally suited for Centennial Park. Factors reviewed as part of the assessment included the project’s potential impact on local traffic, and energy use.

“The proposed action involves several components that will change the land, but none of these changes will result in significant impacts,” the environmental assessment concludes.

Restaino’s administration is pursuing construction of Centennial Park in an effort to extend the local tourism season by offering visitors and residents more options for indoor and outdoor activities.

The project calls for the development of an “event campus” that would consist of “several structures” to be used for sporting events, concerts and other activities.

According to the project’s environmental assessment, the administration envisions the site as a “multi-faceted, year-round event campus” that would include a 6,000 to 7,000-seat arena for sporting and entertainment events, a smaller arena for sporting and entertainment events and a splash pad that could be converted into an ice-skating rink during winter months. In addition, the project calls for the construction of a parking ramp with exterior walls that could be used for rock climbing and a roof that could be used as a location for concerts or movie screenings.

The administration is considering using the city’s power of eminent domain — a legal process that allows public agencies to force private entities to turn over land for projects deemed to be in the public’s interest — to acquire 12 acres of land from NFR.

The land in question sits on two parcels — one at 907 Falls St. and another along John B. Daly Boulevard. Both properties, which are currently vacant, are owned by NFR, a firm owned by New York City real estate developer Howard Milstein.

“The site is east of the Seneca Niagara Casino and the entertainment district, hotels and Niagara Falls State Park,” the environmental assessment notes. “It is also in close proximity to the existing residential areas to north, northwest and northeast. The site acts as a physical and visual buffer to the more industrial areas of the city.”

The environmental assessment notes that while the proposed project may involve construction lasting more than a year and may result in “increased erosion,” none of the proposed changes are expected to result in “significant impacts.”

The assessment indicates that building Centennial Park would result in about 1.77 acres of trees being removed from the project site, with a little over 6.15 acres of roads, buildings and other paved and impervious surfaces being added. The project site is listed as about 10.3 acres, with the total acreage to be “physically disturbed” at 6.33 acres.

A separate, more-detailed traffic study found that Centennial Park would not pose any “significant impacts” to local roads and intersections and, therefore, no mitigation measures would be needed to ensure traffic flows smoothly around the site if the park does get built.

The assessment also found that the project would not have significant impact on local plants or wildlife, historic and archeological resources and that “no odor or adverse outdoor lighting impacts” are anticipated during or after construction.

According to the assessment documents, Centennial Park may require a substation upgrade or construction of a new substation to meet what is anticipated as an increased demand for power on the site.

Niagara Falls lawmakers will be asked, during a special meeting set for tonight, to accept the findings of the project’s environmental review, another step that could lead to the city acquiring the land for Centennial Park through eminent domain.

Tonight’s special city council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and will be held inside council chambers at city hall, 745 Main St.

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