Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was on hand Friday, Aug. 31, to help the region and Grand Island open the Western New York Welcome Center.
The $20 million-plus building on Alvin Road with design inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright hosted areas government leaders.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the grand opening the Western New York Welcome Center in Grand Island saying the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Welcome Center represents the gateway to world-class destinations and historic sites in the Western New York region.
"Western New York's world-class tourism industry continues to thrive as we welcome millions of visitors each year, generating billions of dollars for the state's economy," Cuomo said. "This investment in the new Western New York Welcome Center will attract new and returning visitors and continue to bolster the region's economy by promoting destinations, attractions, and special events across Western New York."
"As a life-long Western New Yorker, I know firsthand the beauty and rich history this great region features," said Hochul. "This new Welcome Center highlights Western New York's economic resurgence and showcases the state's investment in tourist attractions that continue to drive the tourism industry and promote growth across our great state."
Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray spoke at the event. The Welcome Center is one of 11 welcome centers located across New York state.
He said last week the GI building is bigger.
"I've seen some of the other ones. ... When I first saw the one downstate they first opened, that's when I started pushing the governor. I said, 'We should put one here.' The first one I saw was on Long Island," McMurray said. "After I saw the one on Long Island, I thought, 'This is gorgeous. Long Island's great, but we've got Niagara Falls here."
"Niagara Falls is already one of the world's greatest attractions. ... I used to live overseas for a long time, and anywhere you go from Delhi to Shanghai, any middle-class family has a picture of somebody standing in front of Niagara Falls. The problem is they take a photograph and they go home," McMurray said.
The Welcome Center will showcase venues regionwide.
"The busloads of Chinese tourists, the busloads of Indian tourists pass the Island. This is going to be an opportunity for people to say, 'What else is in this region?'"
"If we get people to say, 'Hey, I went to Niagara Falls, now I want to see what's at Canalside, now I want to see what's in Roycroft, that's the purpose of this center."
"Go to the Golden Gate Bridge. Any major attraction has something like this where you can learn digitally about what's happening in the region, and people especially tourists who are well traveled expect something like," McMurray said.
The center has an iconic "Prairie style" design inspired by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The location features interactive video displays that prominently highlight the region's history and tourism attractions across Western New York. The new Welcome Center also includes a Taste NY Market offering an array of New York grown products.
The Taste NY Market will showcase a broad selection of fresh made breakfast and lunch items, including soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts using ingredients sourced from Western New York growers and producers. It will also offer grab-and-go snacks, craft beverages and specialty local items for sale, providing an opportunity for local producers to market their products and to connect New York's residents and visitors to the state's food and beverage producers.
On the menu are Dick & Jenny's and Kelly's Country Store, to name a couple Grand Island features.
Open 24 hours a day, the Welcome Center has a community room, an I LOVE NY "selfie wall," an historic artifacts display, a floor map of regional attractions, vending machines and café style seating with tables that will provide an enhanced visitor experience.
The grounds surrounding the Welcome Center includes a children's play area with a Great Lakes shipwreck theme, an I LOVE NY sculpture, electric vehicle charging stations, a motorcycle shelter, and parking spaces for cars, buses/RVs, and trucks.
Empire State Development CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The Western New York Welcome Center showcases everything this area has to offer visitors -- from the region's architectural and historical gems to its natural beauty and fantastic food. This strategic investment will further grow the tourism industry that is thriving and creating economic opportunities in Western New York and throughout the state."
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "The center showcases the many, many reasons for visitors to spend more time in Buffalo and Western New York. Thank you to Gov. Cuomo for his leadership in making the center possible. It is a great invest in our growing tourism economy, and will be an asset for the millions of travelers who will enjoy this facility, and learn a lot about our region while they're here."
For the town
Two huge improvements along Alvin Road came along with the Welcome Center.
Grand Island Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford Alvin Road near the Welcome Center is now wider, with guardrails and better drainage at no cost to town taxpayers.
"It's a main artery from Baseline to Whitehaven due to the proximity to the Thruway, the Golden Age Center, and the corridor of businesses that are down there," he said of Alvin Road. So it's improvement is a wonderful gift, per se, and we're happy that the state was able to do as much as they did."
Crawford said a rule of thumb is that road reconstruction costs $1 million a mile. "Significant improvements were done to Alvin Road in concert with the Welcome Center, and as highway superintendent I couldn't be more grateful to the taxpayers of New York state."
McMurray pointed to a second improvement to benefit Islanders is the addition of a dog park to the Welcome Center.
"How many years have they been talking about a dog park?" McMurray said. "It's no mistake that I told them to put a dog park in. We got one for free now."
"They always try to do things the cheap way," McMurray said. "They always have some weird scheme. So I said to the governor, put a dog park into the design. Lookit, they got one. It's beautiful. Anyone can come here and use it. And Alvin Road got paved. This is a huge benefit to our town."