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REDC’s Recreation Tourism Funding

This post is the sixth in a series on the awards granted by the Regional Economic Development Councils. The series is intended to document what actually is being done, by following the money.

Empire State Development – Market New York (ESD MNY) is part of a new process applicants for state funding negotiate. ESD MNY has funded Path through History media projects, support for booze-related tourism, and some projects with “path” potential (although they weren’t identified as such). In this post, I’ll focus on another type of tourism touted by Governor Andrew Cuomo: recreation tourism.

Capital Tier: Albany County
Applicant: Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Project Title: Capital Sports Events Marketing
Description: Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau will support the marketing of upcoming major collegiate sporting events in Albany in 2015. 2015 will be the beginning of a 3 year period that the Capital Region will host a total of 5 major events. These major events will be supported and leveraged to promote future tournaments to the region through a robust marketing plan to increase attendance at events as well as a series of activities will be planned in Albany.
Amount: $125,000

Capital Tier: Albany County
Applicant: New York Golf Trail
Project Title: New York Golf Trail International Expansion
Description: The New York Golf Trail will continue the expansion and marketing of the New York Golf Trail by adding two more regions to the Trail (Buffalo/Niagara and Elmira/ Watkins Glen) and by this expanding the digital marketing and advertising, as well as paid search, into Ontario and Quebec. Additionally, the 2015 plan also includes piloting 30-second television spots on the Golf Channel in New York, MA and PA.
Amount: $100,000

Capital Tier: Greene County
Applicant: Windham Area Recreation Foundation
Project Title: Windham Mountain Bike World Cup
Description: Windham Area Recreation Foundation will complete the development of a
comprehensive promotion and marketing plan for the 2015 Windham Mountain Bike World Cup, an event that is part of the most elite bike series in the world. The goal of the project is to increase participation by international elite riders and US amateur riders, expo and vendor participants, and spectators in 2015. Increased attendance to the event will help to strengthen the Windham region and all of New York as a premier cycling destination by improving awareness of the region.
Amount: $247,875

Central Tier: Cortland County
Applicant: Cortland Downtown Partnership
Project Title: Ski Cortland
Description: Ski Cortland will enhance and promote the advancement of the snow sport industry of the Central New York region by connecting the region’s largest all season destination, Greek Peak Mountain Resort, and nearby hub for commerce and culture, Historic Downtown Cortland to encourage the frequency and duration of destination stays.
Amount: $840,000

Central Tier: Multiple counties and tiers
Applicant: Oswego County
Project Title: Lake Ontario Cross Regional Promotion
Description: The County of Oswego, on behalf of and in cooperation with, the other seven partner counties proposes a targeted multi-media campaign that will highlight the world-class sport-fishing opportunities in and around Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Amount: $190,440

Mid-Hudson: Rockland County
Applicant: Merlin Entertainments
Project Title LEGOLAND Park
Description: Merlin Entertainments will development a site in Haverstraw for a new LEGOLAND theme park resort. The resort would include theme park initially, followed on by a LEGOLAND water park and LEGOLAND hotel. LEGOLAND parks typically bring a strong increased economic development to the area, including increase need for lodging and retail space and increased employment to the area.
Amount: $100,000 plus $3,000,000 in a related award

New York: Richmond (Staten Island)
Applicant: New York Wheel, LLC
Project Title: The Wheel and Facility Development
Description: New York Wheel LLC is developing a 625-foot observation wheel on northern Staten Island, visible from downtown Manhattan and multiple competing observation attractions. The 38-minute, 36-capsule ride will offer views of the Statue of Liberty, the NYC Skyline, the Verrazano Bridge as well as further points. In addition to the Wheel, the sponsor will construct a 92,000 SF Terminal Building comprised of 40,000 SF of commercial uses, 15,000 SF back of house use, 16,000 SF of retail, 7,000 SF of restaurant, 6,000 SF exhibit area, and a 8,000 SF theater.
Amount: $1,550,000

North Country: Essex, Franklin, and Hamilton Counties
Applicant: LPEC Quality Destination, Inc.
Project Title: Empire State Winter Games Go Global
Description: Empire State Winter Games Goes Global is an 19 sport event competition, held over a period of seven days across the Northern Adirondacks. The planned expansion to go global will increase the number of competitors and spectators along with increased participation of counties and towns of the north country thus creating a greater economic impact to the entire North Country Region.
Amount: $275,000

North Country: Hamilton County
Applicant: Oak Mountain, LLC
Project Title: Expanding Tourism Season
Description: Through this multi-phase capital tourism project Oak Mountain will extend the ski season as well as improve year round access to the facility thereby increasing
visitation to this tourism destination and the region overall.
Amount: $9,400

Southern Tier: Multiple Counties
Applicant: Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
Project Title: The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will establish a new promotional program that includes a 21-county paranormal/historical destination marketing program that utilizes the haunted locations; guided haunted/historical tours; haunted inns; and yearround and seasonal ghostly events to attract leisure and group visitation to the counties participating in the program. The trail, which includes over 100 haunted locations and events, stretches over 400 miles and includes 8 of the State’s 11 vacation regions.
Amount: $40,000

Southern Tier: Schuyler County
Applicant: Watkins Glen International
Project Title: Watkins Glen International Modernization Project
Description Watkins Glen International, Inc. will undertake a complete racetrack re-paving
project in order to address critical safety deficiencies. The modernization will keep top tier drivers and fans coming back to the Finger Lakes Region, as well as retain the popular NASCAR events in Upstate New York.
Amount: $250,000 and $2,000,000 in a related grant

There is some serious money involved here. Besides the nearly $2.5 million from two grants, there are $5 million in related grants from outside ESD MNY. The Empire State Winter Games, Legoland, the New York Wheel, and Watkins Glen racetrack are all big-stakes, high-level operations. The ordinary historic site pales by comparison. What these award winners, along with the ski and golf winners, have in common is that they are single-site destination points that are visited to the exclusion of everything around them (maybe the Wheel will encourage people to visit the places they see from above).

At The New York Times Travel Show on January 22, Ross Levi, VP Marketing for ILOVENY, identified four areas of tourism that are being promoted: the Path through History (which he previously addressed at the MANY Conference in 2014), Taste NY (a culinary tourism program), LGBTQ tourism, and Adventure and Eco-Tourism. I put recreation tourism in the last category.

Levi mentioned the Adirondacks, Niagara Falls, fishing, skiing, scuba diving and outdoor scenery. Certainly the Governor is known for his interest in this area as his family vacations in the Adirondacks and he participates in recreational activities. So again ESD is putting its money where the Governor’s mouth is and supports promoting these types of activities and events in the state.

These awards provide a valuable lesson that the Path project has yet to learn: the importance of paths for mega-funding. Individual historic sites can not compete with Legoland or the Wheel for funding. The goal of the Path project should not be a body count of events on the first two weekends in June that would have taken place anyway even without the Path project, but to create paths that sell the historic and scenic experiences New York has to offer: the Champlain Valley, the Erie Canal, the Hudson Valley, the Mohawk Hawk Valley, Routes 1, 5, 9, 17, 20, 22, 28, and themes like the American Revolution, the Dutch, Hudson River Art, the Underground Railroad, Immigration, Industrialization, the French and Indian War, the War of 1812, and so on. Paths that bring together multiple historic sites working collaboratively to create an integrated tour experience and not simply signs on a highway or dots on a computer screen.


2 thoughts on “REDC’s Recreation Tourism Funding

  1. Generic reminder if not already advertised through this site: the National Park Service is holding the 2015 National Underground Railroad Conference in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina June 17-20. More information available at Organization of American Historians website

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