State lawmaker expresses ‘disappointment’ after planned water park project dries up

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y.  (WIVB) – A state lawmaker from Niagara County is expressing “disappointment” after learning that a proposed $20 million indoor water park project in Niagara Falls has dried up.

State Senator Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, says there was already around $8 million in public incentives on the table for the project

“It’s certainly disappointing that project won’t happen, especially with the amount of commitment that had occurred,” Ortt tells News 4.

“You have to ask yourself, even with that amount of money to a developer, even that’s not enough; that 50 percent of the project has to be funded,” he added.

Niagara Falls developer Michael DiCienzo, whose company has tourism-based operations on both sides of the falls, says the water park project was scrapped after state economic development officials turned down his request for a $2 million grant.

“We needed to make a decision as a business to move on, and that’s what we’ve chosen to do,” said DiCienzo.

DiCienzo tells News 4 that he’s sad and personally disappointed that he couldn’t take the project over the finish line.

“We’re extremely grateful and very, very thankful for all those who did step up with Senator Ortt with the tourism targeting fund, with the City of Niagara Falls with their grant donation, with the Niagara County IDA with their enhanced pilot project on the taxes,” DiCienzo said.

New York State’s economic development arm, Empire State Development, is already backing another water park project — the proposed Wonder Falls resort at the former Rainbow Mall site in downtown Niagara Falls.

Christopher Schoepflin, ESD’s senior vice president in Western New York, was asked about DiCienzo blaming the lack of state grant funding for the project’s demise.

“Certainly, the private sector has the right to make their own decisions and place their capital as they see fit. We’re disappointed and hopeful that we can work with him in the future,” Schoepflin said.

According to ESD, the state has given DiCienzo $600,000 for two previous projects.

  • TGIF $75,000
  • Rainforest Cafe $525,000

Agency officials also tell News 4 that DiCienzo’s Sheraton at the Falls on Third Street received a $6 million investment in 2006 when the property was undergoing tens of millions of dollars in renovations under a previous owner.

“We want to garner all the investment we can, but I think also sometimes the state has to make strategic decisions about its investment with our limited capital dollars as well,” Schoepflin added.

Sen. Ortt thinks there needs to be a larger discussion about the process of incentivizing developers.

“I mean at some point, you can’t just give away the store. There’s got to be a balance for the state as well. So even with the incentives, if you’re having a hard time getting developers to come to Niagara County, Upstate New York, then you have to look at other factors,” Ortt said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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