Casino resort banking on lure of Niagara Falls

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NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario -- It stands 30 stories high, took six years to develop and its price tag already has exceeded $760 million.

When the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort opens June 8, it will have the distinction of being the second-largest privately funded construction project ever attempted in Canada. Only Toronto's Pearson Airport has cost more.

And it's being promoted as much more than a resort -- the city is counting on this 2.5 million-square-foot complex to lead the rebirth of tourism on the Canadian side of the falls.

"The Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort will revitalize the community," said Jim Dougan, president and chief operating officer of the Falls Management Co., a consortium of five partners responsible for developing and managing the property in cooperation with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Hyatt Hotels' Hyatt Gaming division will manage the property.

Resort officials predict the property will be instrumental in raising the city's number of annual visitors from the current 14 million to 30 million by the end of 2016. Only a small percentage of those visitors, however, will actually stay overnight at the property -- the resort has only 368 guest rooms and suites.

The resort's expectations are reflected in its 200,000-square-foot casino, which officials said is larger than the one at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a property that has 5,000 rooms.

The Niagara Fallsview also features a 15,000-square-foot health and fitness spa and a 1,500 seat ballroom (Canada native Paul Anka will be the inaugural performer). Taking advantage of Niagara Falls' traditional positioning as a honeymoon destination, the resort also will have a wedding chapel on the grounds.

The complex will include an expansive shopping mall and 10 restaurants. Resort officials said one restaurant planned will be called Pheromone, which will feature foods claimed to have aphrodisiacal effects.

But of all the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort's attributes, the most significant is its location.

Situated on a 23-acre site on Fallsview Boulevard, the resort overlooks both the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls on the U.S. side. All of the property's rooms overlook the falls.

Officials said another 30 projects are in the works for the area, including tourist attractions and hotel developments.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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