Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — The Maid of The Mist has plucked its tourist-toting vessels from the waters of the of the Niagara Gorge and placed them on their newly built dry dock on the former Schoellkopf Power Station site, a punctuation mark for the iconic attraction to a task that has been marred by controversy.
Maid owners and employees stood alongside state and city officials, the construction workers that have been working around the clock to complete the new dry dock and members of the press watching as the 125,000-ton Maid of the Mist VII was hoisted out of the water, her sister ship the Maid of the Mist VI waiting patiently in the rushing waters of the lower Niagara, as the ship was gently placed onto wood blocks to rest for the winter.
Maid of the Mist owner James Glynn, smiling as the boat came to rest, said his company and its contractors on the job, LP Ciminelli, accomplished “what we set out to do” Thursday morning.
“It’s very gratifying that we’re here and everything’s in place,” Glynn said. “We’ll be ready to start in the spring from the American side.”
The Maid of the Mist, which has operated tour boats at the base of the Falls since 1846 and been owned by the Glynn family since 1971, lost its contract with the Niagara Parks Commission, the provincial agency that runs the parks system in Ontario, which re-opened the Glynn’s contract to bidding in 2009, the result of lawsuits and public scrutiny of the company’s no-bid contract.
The Maid was outbid by Hornblower Cruises and Entertainment, a California-based cruise operator, and lost its storage facilities located on the Canadian side of the gorge along with the right to operate in Ontario. Hornblower gains rights to the site at the beginning of 2014.
With no storage facilities on the American side of the gorge, the company was in danger of losing its ability to operate the attraction.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the Glynns in announcing an amendment to the Maid’s existing 40-year contract — inked in 2002 — that would see the state take in an additional $105 million over the course of agreement and see the Maid spend an additional $32 million to convert the historic Schoellkopf Power Station site into a dry dock facility for the boats and “enhance” the historic aspects of the site to create another attraction for visitors.
The company and several state agencies have faced a series of lawsuits from Hornblower, seeking to reopen the Maid’s no-bid contract on the American side, and from the Niagara Preservation Coalition, a preservation group seeking to stop the Maid and the state from altering the historic site, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February after a push from state officials for the designation.
Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257.