By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda City Council will likely move to allow a new river cruise business to operate out of Gateway Harbor beginning this summer.
The topic was broached this week after two Grand Island residents who started the business approached Mayor Rob Ortt with the idea in February.
Ortt said the business concept, called Niagara River Cruises, will be launched regardless of council approval, as at least one stopover has already been approved at the Four Points Sheraton in Niagara Falls. However, the council seems poised to back the idea as well, with a 40-person capacity aboard the ship would generate additional tourist dollars to the banks of the Erie Canal. Ortt said the owners are working on using the pier in Tonawanda as another desired stopover.
The owners, who will meet with the council in the coming weeks, plan to launch the venture by May and are hoping to use Gateway Harbor as the focal point for unloading and loading its clients.
“We’re making sure that logistically that would work,” Ortt said. “You’re in front of the Remington building, you’re minutes from Webster Street where they would offer these cruises to the tourists. I think anytime somebody wants to bring people to North Tonawanda they’re going to spend their money.”
The council will now consider whether the boat will be able to dock in an area near a rail bridge over the Erie Canal. Ortt said the city would require Niagara River Cruises to pay a fee for the use of electricity and water, though he sees the economic benefits for local businesses as significant.
The business will charge $20 per person for all-day tickets and $12 for shorter rides along the canal and the Niagara River. The next step for the council will be to create a fee structure and for the owners of Niagara River Cruises to obtain the proper insurance.
“We realize that they’re a start-up business,” Ortt said. “But they really want to (start) in Gateway Harbor. I think the fact that you have people from outside the area wanting to be there when they could have went anywhere else, that shows that the secret is out about North Tonawanda and we’ll have another thing going on downtown this summer.”Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.