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November 16, 2017 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tourism, genesee county, business, news.

Sports is a booming business for tourism in Genesee County, according to Kelly Rapone, tourism marketing director for the Chamber of Commerce.

Between soccer at Batavia Sports Park, the Darien Lake baseball and softball tournaments, golf getaways, and various other competitive sports events that attract people from throughout the region and the Northeast, Genesee County hotels are often selling out during the spring and summer, Rapone told members of the County Legislator's Ways and Means Committee yesterday.

"Every weekend, I would say, from May right through July, we are booked up, our hotels, for sports," Rapone said.

That helps contribute to one of the major funding sources for the Chamber of Commerce, the county's bed tax.

Last year, the bed tax fell a little short of projections but Tom Turnbull, chamber president, said it looks like the revenue will exceed the $420,000 target, despite a rainy June.

Revenue was up 3 percent in the first quarter, 3 percent in the fourth quarter, but down 1 percent in the third quarter.

"The big factor there is probably Darien Lake," Turnbull said. "They are a big contributor to the bed tax and it was a rainy summer. Their numbers were, I know, down a little bit, but still 1 percent is not too bad."

The fourth quarter should make up for it, Turnbull said, with a projected increase of 17 percent.

Rapone said the golf packages the chamber sells fell off significantly in June, from leading to the booking of 93 room nights a year ago to just 29 this June.

"You can see, they all kind of shifted out to later in the summer and then we did another push for fall packages," Rapone said.

The chamber's budget for 2017 expected $66,000 from New York in matching funds for the "I Love NY" tourism promotion program, but the chamber received only $64,400 this year. That is the number the chamber will budget for 2018 and hope for an increase in that amount.

The chamber also generates its own revenue through a visitors guide, dining guide, coupon book and the golf packages. The budget anticipated $106,000 in revenue from these sources and the actual revenue for 2017 will be at least $108,000. The chamber will budget $110,000 for 2018.

Rapone said the county may see an increase in Chinese tourists, with a shift away over the next four years from bus tours to more individual travelers.

This year, the chamber hosted a group of 16 Chinese travel guides who were touring the state.

She also talked about how the Chinese pay for things. There is only one national credit card and that isn't always accepted by businesses in the United States.

"A Chinese traveller would never pull out his Chinese credit card to pay for something if he thought there might be the slightest chance it would be denied," Rapone said.

So what they carry is a card called Union Pay. What a lot of merchants don't understand, she said, is if they can accept Discover, they can accept Union Pay.

She said she visited a deli over the summer and the owner complained that the Chinese who came in never bought anything. She told him about Union Pay. The next week, he had all the signage up in the store to show he accepted Union Pay.

"It's the simple things that make us more welcoming," she said. "Like, they don't like ice in their drinking water. They want their water and tea at room temperature."

November 5, 2017 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chamber of commerce, tourism, business.

kelleyraponeawardnov2017.jpg

Press release:

The New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA) recognized individuals and organizations for their high level of excellence and accomplishments in New York State’s tourism industry at the 2017 Tourism Excellence Awards Dinner, held Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Glen Club of the Watkins Glen International.

Kelly Rapone, tourism director for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, was presented with the 2017 Excellence in Leadership award, which honors a tourism professional for leadership through outstanding initiative, impact of their work, and inspiring others around them.

In remarks read at the presentation by Nicole Mahoney, president of Break the Ice Media, noted that Kelly Rapone is a leader in the New York State tourism industry, exemplifying outstanding initiative.

“She is dedicated to bringing tourism into her county, as well as her region and the state.”

Rapone’s influence goes beyond her county borders. The impact of her enthusiastic work is felt statewide. With the launch of the Haunted History Trail in 2013, she created a product for a niche market that helps many historic sites and lesser-known attractions get recognized, and provides a direct economic impact of more than $1.5 million. This is just one of many initiatives in which she takes a leadership role.

Mahoney went on to remark that Rapone is an inspiration to many in the tourism industry.

“From mentoring young professionals to helping interns grow in their careers, to providing guidance and genuine interest to small business owners throughout her county and beyond, she has earned respect and admiration from her peers near and far, and is truly worthy of this honor.”

Rapone has long been a supportive leader with NYSTIA, serving on the board of directors and actively chairing the scholarship committee, which this year raised more than $11,500 dollars to benefit college students.

The winning individuals or organizations of NYSTIA’s 2017 Tourism Excellence Awards were nominated by their peers and reviewed by NYSTIA’s awards committee. The recipients were selected based on demonstrated commitment, leadership, and accomplishment in travel and tourism.

Jill Delaney, NYSTIA president and CEO said, “As the fourth largest employer in the State of New York, the tourism industry continues to grow and evolve, leading to ever more impressive accomplishments. We are honored to have a night set aside to recognize the successes of our industry innovators with the goal of inspiring creativity and passion throughout New York State’s tourism industry.”

Submitted photo: Jill Delaney, NYSTIA president/CEO, Kelly Rapone, Valerie Knoblach, NYSTIA Board chair.

October 11, 2017 - 4:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, news, Announcements, agriculture, tourism, agritourism.

A symposium on agritourism will be held at Genesee Community College on Thursday, Oct. 26.

It will take place inside Stuart Steiner Theatre and is free and open to all. It is hosted by GCC's Tourism & Hospitality Management Program.

Meet the entrepreneurial agritourism leaders in Genesee County. There will be vendor booths and samples.

Here's the day's schedule:

  • 11 a.m. to noon -- Student Session with Sophie Winter, Ph.D.
  • 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. -- Keynote Speaker: Sophie Winter, Ph.D.
  • 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. -- Panel Discussion and Question-and-Answer Session
  • 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. -- Meet, Greet & Eat Reception

The college is located at One College Road in the Town of Batavia.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Amy Slusser, professor, Tourism & Hospitality Management, at 343-0055, ext. 6332, or email   [email protected]

The symposium is sponsored in part by Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement.

May 1, 2017 - 12:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tourism, business, batavia, sports.

Press release:

The 2017 Empire Cup College Showcase has teamed with Elite Tournaments and U.S. Youth Soccer Region 1 to bring the Eastern Regional League to Batavia. Over the next two weekends (May 6-7 and 13-14) Genesee County will host more than 3,000 soccer players, plus coaches, families and fans, as the tournaments are played at the Batavia Sports Park and Genesee Community College fields.

Historically this tournament draws teams from throughout New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Canada. With this new partnership, the event has shown significant growth and the influx of visitors and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce estimates that this event will create an economic impact of more than $1.1 million during the span of the two tournament weekends, from both hotel stays as well as visiting local restaurants and shops. The tournament will generate more than 1,200 room nights at area hotels.

This tournament invites all USYSA and U.S. Club Soccer affiliated boys and girls U13 through U19 teams to participate. Players not only get the opportunity to play with and against the top teams in Region 1; they also get the chance to showcase their abilities and talents to recruits at the collegiate level.

The Genesee County Visitor Center will be open to assist visitors in finding local destinations by providing the new dining guide, maps, visitors guide and area coupons from participating merchants.

April 6, 2017 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Visitor Center, chamber of commerce, tourism, batavia, business, news.

viscenterapril2017_02.png

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s new Visitor Center will operate with extended hours beginning Friday, May 26th, in time for Memorial Day weekend o- the “unofficial” start of the travel season.

The Visitor Center volunteer opportunity is open to any Genesee County resident or civic organization that would like to welcome our visitors, provide directions, or suggestions on places to visit or great places to eat. Volunteer shifts are two-and-a-half hours long and can be done on a weekly, biweekly, or as needed basis.

For more information – please stop by the Visitor Center at 8276 Park Road, or give Lauren Humphrey a call at 585-344-4152.

viscenterapril2017_01.png

February 13, 2017 - 10:03am
posted by Genesee Chamber... in history, Le Roy, Historic Le Roy House, news, tourism.

Tour this mansion-turned-museum for over 100 years of unique history! The Historic Le Roy house was built in 1822 by Jacob LeRoy and later owned by the chancellor of Ingham University, which was the first female university in the United States to grant a four-year degree.

Learn more in this week's historical society feature and be sure to pay a visit! The museum is open Monday -- Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended hours beginning in the Spring.

Historic Le Roy House, 23 E. Main St., Le Roy, NY; 585-768-7433.

Visit www.VisitGeneseeNY.com to learn more about Genesee County's unique attractions.

February 2, 2017 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, tourism, business, news.

A weak Canadian dollar kept many tourists from the north out of New York and Genesee County, as a result, saw a decline of 3 percent in bed tax revenue, Tom Turnbull, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told county legislators yesterday.

Turnbull and tourism director Kelly Rapone provided a review of chamber and tourism activity at the Ways and Means Committee meeting.

"People were not traveling as much," Turnbull said. "But talking with our friends in Buffalo-Niagara, we did better than them. They were down 10 percent."

The weak exchange rate for Canadians didn't keep too many golfers away, though, Turnbull said. Because the prices at local golf courses are so competitive, the chamber was still able to sell a number of golf packages.

Turnbull thinks the county's bed tax revenue will return to a level of $420,000 or higher in 2017 in a large part because this will be the first full year of operation for the new hotel at Batavia Downs and this year a new hotel should open on the north side of the Thruway in Batavia, the Fairfield by Marriott.

Group sales have continued to do well, if not better, Turnbull said. Genesee County continues to be a popular location for soccer, lacrosse and baseball tournaments. 

"That brings people into the hotels and they spend money and that’s what we’re looking for," Turnbull said.

Rapone shared copies of the new tourism promotional material the chamber has available. She also debuted the totally redesigned tourism website visitgeneseeny.com. The modernized website will make it easier for tourists to find information about visiting Genesee County, she said, and it will also make it easier on both golfers and staff to handle bookings for golf packages.

During the meeting, Legislator Ray Cianfrini also floated the idea of creating an entertainment tax. He noted that when he's gone to venues in other counties he's noticed the ticket price includes an entertainment tax, so he's been researching it. The tax, if implemented, would likely apply only to venues over a certain size, say with seating of 2,500 or more, and colleges would be exempt.  

The only current venue where such a tax might apply is Darian Lake Performing Arts Center.

"It might be another source of revenue," Cianfrini said.

January 24, 2017 - 1:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tourism, chamber of commerce, news.

Genesee County should get a chance to compete for the governor's proposed increase in tourism spending, according to Kelly Rapone, tourism marketing director for the Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning on adding $5 million to the tourism budget, making the total statewide spend $55 million.

Rapone said she anticipates seeing the amount available for competitive grants increase, and while she didn't have specific projects to pitch right now, she said for the county to get a portion of the money, it would need to submit a project to the state for consideration.

That's how the chamber won a $90,000 grant to promote the state's Haunted History Trail. The trail points tourists to dozen of potentially haunted, historical locations from Warick to Dunkirk and is promoted statewide with the grant money.

Rapone said she's been around long enough to remember when the state government didn't take tourism seriously and allocated few resources to the industry, which she said does provide a significant boost the economy.

"I have to say, anytime there is money dedicated to tourism, that is a good thing," Rapone said.

Gov. Cuomo has shown a lot of interest in tourism, especially in boosting tourism around ag products such as wine and craft beer.

The local tourism bureau also receives state money through a complicated formula for matching funds. The formula is based on regional and local considerations and the amount of the request. Last year, Genesee County received $66,000, or about one third of the tourism agency's operating budget.

November 29, 2016 - 6:12am
posted by Genesee Chamber... in genesee county, history, news, tourism, hlom.

If you have a history lover or a curiosity seeker on your holiday shopping list, the gift shop area of the Holland Land Office Museum (131 W. Main St., Batavia) is going to be your best friend this holiday season.

Genesee County is blessed with rich American history. The county’s location and people have made significant contributions to the history of our country. The Holland Land Office Museum has a great gift shop that features many local history books and local history items for sale. It’s refreshing to see such a nice array of offerings.

You can visit the gift shop area Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Take a look at some of our favorite items:

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2016-11-23-holland-land-office-museum-18

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Visit www.VisitGeneseeNY.com to learn more...
December 31, 2015 - 7:36pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Jell-O Museum, tourism.

Bill Cosby was the public face of Jell-O for many years.

And while his ties to Le Roy’s Jell-O Museum were never strong, they're almost nonexistent now.

Cosby visited the museum for about an hour in 2004, to help open an exhibit commemorating his 30 years as Jell-O’s spokesman. To mark the occasion, a pair of commemorative bricks were added to the “Jell-O Brick Road” that leads pedestrians from Main Street to the museum.

Last year, when sexual-assault allegations against the comedian were brought to wide public attention, the bricks were discreetly removed and placed in storage.

“We just thought it was inappropriate (to keep them there),” said Lynne Belluscio, the museum director. “We also worried a little about vandalism.”

At the time, Belluscio also worried the museum would get some unwelcome media attention.

That never happened.

And it didn’t happen on Wednesday, when a felony charge was filed against Cosby in Pennsylvania.

“We kind of braced ourselves, and we got nothing,” Belluscio said Thursday. 

“I was expecting a lot more,” she added. “In fact, I came in this morning to see if there was anything in the e-mail — and we got nothing.”

A collection of Jell-O TV commercials featuring Cosby used to be part of the museum exhibit, but isn’t anymore. Cosby’s photograph is included with advertising displays — along with other famous Jell-O spokesmen, including Jack Benny.

So when Belluscio is asked about Cosby, she points out that he’s not the reason for the museum.

“Our kind of pat answer is, we don’t have an affiliation with the Jell-O company and that we really focus on the history of Jell-O in Le Roy,” Belluscio said. 

That history begins in 1897— when Pearle Wait invented the gelatin dessert  — and ends with General Foods’ 1964 decision to close its Le Roy factory and move Jell-O production to Delaware.

The Jell-O Museum draws more than 10,000 visitors a year. That number reflects the enduring popularity of the dessert — not Cosby.

Even in 2004, Belluscio said, his role as pitchman was already “old hat.”

“Which to me, is indicative that the brand has moved beyond him — and had, for a long time,” she said. “In today’s advertising market, that’s the way it is.”

October 30, 2015 - 1:43pm
posted by Billie Owens in tourism, genesee county, darien lake, Milestones, business.

(Submitted photo of Kelly Rapone, with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, and Amber Ciesiulka, with Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, with their respective awards.)

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and Darien Lake Amusement Park Resort both received awards recently for Excellence in Tourism Marketing from the New York State Tourism Industry Association.

The New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA) has recognized leaders in New York State’s tourism industry who have achieved a high level of excellence and accomplishment at the 2015 Tourism Excellence Awards. The winning individuals or organizations were selected on the basis of demonstrated commitment, leadership, and accomplishment in travel and tourism.

Genesee County Chamber of Commerce earned the “Excellence in Tourism Marketing -- Statewide” for its Haunted History Trail of New York State program. Created by Genesee County Chamber of Commerce in 2013, it is the only statewide haunted tourism trail in the country. The program includes partnership with 30 tourism promotion agencies and promotes over 60 haunted inns, hotels, museums and more across New York State and was developed to draw tourists who have an interest in ghosts.

Darien Lake Amusement Park was recognized for “Excellence in Tourism Marketing -- Private Sector ” for their 2015 overall marketing program which focused on delivering an exceptional value and experience to season pass holders, daily visitors and overnight guests. Darien Lake Amusement Park Resort is New York State’s largest amusement park resort featuring over 50 rides and attractions including a 10-acre waterpark and a variety of overnight options including a hotel, cabins and a campground.

The organizations received their awards at the NYSTIA Tourism Excellence Awards Dinner on Thursday, Oct. 22, at The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. Kelly Rapone and Taylor White, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, and Amber Ciesiulka, Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, accepted the awards at the event.

May 20, 2015 - 3:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, visitors booth, chamber of commerce, tourism, business.

visitorboothmay202015.jpg

Press release:

Here is a fun and interesting way that you can assist your community -- by volunteering a few hours at the Genesee County Visitor Information Center. If you love our surrounding communities, enjoy helping people, and feel that you could be great ambassador for Genesee County, the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is looking you.

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will reopen the seasonal Visitor Information Center on Friday, June 5th. The center is located at 131 W. Main St. in Batavia and operates in the summer months to assist summer visitors.

The Chamber is currently looking for a few helpful residents to greet visitors and provide directions and area information to travelers at our visitor “booth,” which is located in the parking lot of the Holland Land Office Museum.  Our volunteers greet visitors, hand out maps, dining guides, provide directions, recommendations and more. 

Available shifts are:

  • Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.
  • Sundays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as every other Sunday 3 to 5 p.m.

If you are interested in a two- or three-hour shift, weekly or biweekly, please call Kelly Rapone (585) 343-7440, ext. 23, at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Howard Owens.

March 5, 2015 - 5:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tourism, American Pickers, television.

The reality television series "American Pickers," about two guys traveling around the country looking for "rusty gold" -- stuff some might call junk, others call collectable -- is going to make another swing through Western New York and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce was asked to help get the word out.

Producers are interested in hearing from or about interesting people with interesting private collections.

From the press release:

Filming is scheduled to start next month. "American Pickers" is looking for leads and would love to explore what you may have. They are on the hunt for interesting characters with interesting and unique items. Some of what they look for: vintage bicycles, toys, unusual radios, movie memorabilia, advertising, military items, folk art, vintage musical equipment, vintage automotive items, early firefighting equipment, vintage clothing, pre-'50s Western gear.

If you have a large collection or want to refer someone to Mike and Frank, e-mail your name, number, address and description of the collection and photos to: [email protected], or call 1-855-old-rust.

February 12, 2015 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, tourism, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Darien Lake Theme Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over Western New York each summer, but General Manager Chris Thorpe says Genesee County residents are going to be especially pleased with what they find at the park this season.

Two new massive rides are going to add a lot more value for season-pass holders, he said, and local season-pass holders are an important customer base.

"We are excited to present these two new attractions this year," Thorpe said. "We think it cements us as the best entertainment value in Western New York, particularly from a local perspective. For Batavia residents, local Genesee County residents, our season pass will offer so much more this year. We're excited to give them the opportunity to come out and visit the park frequently, over and over, to see what a great value we are."

The new rides are called Brain Drain and Rolling Thunder.

Brain Drain is a massive, seven-story waterslide that offers twin free-fall drops through tubes that loop and cross, with riders zooming through at 38 feet per second until they're blasted into a pool of water at the base.

Riders start in an enclosed launch capsule, with both riders dropping into the tube simultaneously when the floor beneath them gives way.

Roling Thunder is a compact steel loop that stands 73 feet at its apex and propels 24 riders at time through a closed loop on a high-speed train. The ride hangs passengers upside down and rockets back and forth through the loop.

Construction will begin soon and the rides are expected to be ready for opening day, May 9.

The expansion gives the park 47 rides for visitors to choose from, with enough variety to please all guests, Thorpe said.

"There's so much to do, but what's even better, is there's something for everybody in the family here," said Thorpe, who is originally from Buffalo and first started working at Darien Lake in 1995, rising to the level of general manager, transferring to other theme parks for the past couple of years and now returns home.

Noting how important Darien Lake is to the local economy in the jobs it creates and the tourism dollars it attracts, Chamber President Tom Turnbull said it was great to see the theme park adding rides.

"One of the things I've learned from our friends at Darien Lake -- they've kind of schooled me on the amusement park business -- is how important attractions are in driving attendance," Turnbull said. "To have not just one new attraction, but two new attractions means, I think, we can expect a banner year at Darien Lake."

Adding rides is a departure from last year's strategy to draw visitors to the park, using entertainment, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, a Latin music festival, and, of course, Nik Wallenda to draw in crowds.

To be sure, Wallenda brought guests to the park, but he's moving on to other venues this season and Thrope said the new rides are a good fit for what the park already offers.

"We'll still have our traditional entertainment in place, the magic shows and things like that, but last year's focus was Nik Wallenda, which was a very strong attraction," Thorpe said. "This year, we're going more with a hardware focus and looking at attractions that will peak people's interest."

The park will still work to maintain its identity as a destination with strong Western New York roots, Thorpe said, a branding effort begun by park management two seasons ago.

"It's important for us to be woven into the cultural fabric of Western New York and those things like the Anchor Bar and Tim Horton's and all the local vendors we work with are critically important to our success," Thorpe said.

Chris Thorpe explaining Rolling Thunder.

Tom Turnbull

July 1, 2013 - 2:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, tourism, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Press release:

Darien Lake confirms that its amusement park and water park were closed for approximately two hours today, after the water supply was accidentally cut off.

Monroe County Water Authority had been conducting routine maintenance nearby, which adversely affected the park’s water supply at 11:30 a.m. During the outage, Darien Lake’s bathrooms, food service, and water park were affected.

Darien Lake management closed the park at noon for guest safety. The park’s maintenance crews restored service before 1 p.m., and the park was reopened by 2 p.m.

May 16, 2013 - 8:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Announcements, business, tourism, Darien.

Press release:

Warm weather is back and Darien Lake is helping Western New York cool off this summer with more than one million gallons of water. Darien Lake’s water park will open this Saturday, May 18, 2013, from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

“We made a big splash for our 50-year anniversary with new attractions and upgrades at our opening last weekend,” said Bob Montgomery, general manager at Darien Lake. “Now, with summer weather here again, families can beat the heat and have a blast as we open our water park.”

Free with the price of park admission, the water park is a 10-acre water park keeping park guests cool with more than 1 million gallons of water. There is something for everyone, with slides, tube rides and more.

Take the plunge on the Tornado, which boasts a high-speed 132-foot long tunnel that rockets thrill seekers at speeds of 20 mph or take a break as you relax and float down the lazy river on the Flotation Station. Guests can soak up the sun and ride the waves in Crocodile Isle, a 600,000 gallon wave pool.

At Hooks Lagoon, children will have barrels of fun with pirate ships, water slides and pools. Also perfect for families is the Big Kahuna, a four-person rafting adventure.

The water parkwill be open during every park operating day from now through Sept. 2. For the months of May and June, Darien Lake’s operating schedule is primarily weekends and holidays, with full-season daily operation beginning June 14.

For additional details on the water park and all of attractions and lodging available at Darien Lake, please visit www.DarienLake.com.

July 26, 2012 - 2:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, tourism, darien lake, Darien.

Press release:

In its latest step to ensure the safety and enjoyment of guests going to the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Lake has announced it will require concertgoers to park in free on-site lots. As of Aug. 17, pedestrian access to the Performing Arts Center will be restricted to passenger drop-off at a designated area near the main gate.

“We offer more than enough parking to accommodate park visitors, overnight guests, and a sell-out crowd at the Performing Arts Center,” explained Darien Lake General Manager Bob Montgomery. “In our work with Live Nation, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, and New York State Police, we’ve determined that allowing pedestrian access to concerts increases risk to those walking along the roadway, increases traffic jams before and after concerts, and increases the incidence of excessive pre- and post-show alcohol consumption.”

The new parking rules mark the second significant step Darien Lake’s management organization, Herschend Family Entertainment, has implemented this year to improve the concertgoing experience. At the beginning of the 2012 season, Darien Lake stepped up patrols to decrease the incidence of underage drinking at its events. As a result, arrests for underage drinking have more than doubled over last year.

To help enforce its new parking policy, Darien Lake will erect a fence along Sumner Road (County Road 21). Construction of the fence began on July 24th, and will take approximately three weeks. All concert attendees will be required to enter by vehicle at the main Darien Lake entrance. There will continue to be no charge for on-site parking for concertgoers.

“Darien Lake was built to handle an influx and outflow of traffic,” Montgomery said. “With less traffic coming onto side roads from offsite parking, we believe this new policy may ultimately result in smoother traffic flow.”

The Darien Lake Performing Arts Center schedule includes eight concerts between now and the end of this year’s concert season (Sept. 15). The new policy will be in effect beginning August 17, throughout the 2012 and future concert seasons.

December 6, 2011 - 6:41pm
posted by Eric [Rick] von... in batavia, tourism, Blogs, opinion.

My wife and i just returned from a 2 week trip to visit my daughter in Tampa. We take the normal routes up thru and i have some interesting obsevations. Leaving Florida and entering Georgia there is a nice sign that says "Wer'e glad Georgia's on your mind" followed by a beautiful welcome center. As we traveled, every state had a great clean, and well manned welcome center[ I think you know where this is going] Didn't seem to matter if it was a poor state or more affluent, friendly people Displaying why you should visit their state. I believe we paid around 3 dollars total tolls. When we got to Pennsylvania there was another georgeous center. It was built over the site of a mine collapse. On the monument was the name of every miner who died, and inside was a small museum of mining history, with mining tools and pictures. I don't consider Pennsyvania to be a rich state, but they are proud. When we finially reached our NY border on the mighty rt 90 Eisenhower interstate system we stopped at the Welcome center, It was a 10 by 10 building and they gave us a ticket and proceeded to charge us around 5 dollars to drive on substandard potholed trail.Ask me again WHY do live here??????

June 4, 2011 - 1:20pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in baseball, tourism, darien lake.

Pictured are John White and Ben Zhao, both of Clarence, who were two of many youngsters who came to Darien Lake Theme Park yesterday to get free tickets.

Why do they get such special treatment? Well, the short answer is that they could be helping bring a fortune into Genesee County.

John and Ben are two of almost 1,600 kids, ages 12 to 18, who are competing in the Darien Lake Baseball Tournament, which starts today and involves youth from all over the Northeast and part of Canada.

According to Kelly Rapone, who works for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, there are a total of 106 teams, with 15 kids on each team. Kids from outside of Genesee County will, of course, be accompanied by their families.

This is likely to be a major boon not only for Darien Lake Theme Park -- which is sponsoring the tournament -- but also for the county in general. In addition to Darien Lake tickets for the kids, all visiting families receive welcome packets with visitors' and dining guides.

But what exactly is this tournament, and how did it come about?

According to Rapone, this is a "public-private venture to grow our economy through sports."

It all started a couple years ago with a conversation between Chris Suozzi of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), Neil Turvey of A-Turf (a Cheektowaga-based company that specializes in synthetic grass surfacing for sports fields), and former Senator Mary Lou Rath. They met to discuss possible opportunities for Genesee County.

"There are a lot of synergies right here (in Genesee County)," Suozzi said. "Our location is real prime -- right on the New York State Thruway, between Buffalo and Rochester."

Suozzi and Turvey then got involved with Tom Lichtenthal, the Town of Batavia engineer, and Craig Yunker, who owns the Batavia Turf Farm on Bank Street Road.

Up until now, the Turf Farm has mainly been used for youth soccer games. Turvey would like to develop a baseball training center there, as well as space for baseball and softball games next to the soccer field.

Turvey, of Lockport, said this "is just phase one."

"We hope to eventually have 11 fields for baseball and softball."

Before taking on the ambitious task of "taking baseball (in Genesee County) to the next level," as Suozzi put it, he and Turvey wanted to have a baseball tournament  here to see if it would be successful.

Suozzi said this idea came from an observation of how well local soccer teams have done with their tournaments.

With this in mind, and having connections with Darien Lake, he set up a meeting between himself, the theme park's general manager and Turvey. It was agreed that Darien Lake would sponsor the tournament.

"Our hope is that this will be economically impactful," Suozzi said. "When people and families come in, it brings sales tax dollars to our community. That's something people don't realize -- events like this are a real draw for that."

"We're expecting to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 people this weekend," Turvey said, "and around 7,500 people total."

The teams are divided into three groups: 10- to 12-year-olds, 13- to 15-year-olds and 16- to 18-year-olds. The 10- to 12-year-olds are playing today and tomorrow at Pembroke High School, at 8750 Alleghany Road in Corfu, and at the Pembroke town park, which is right behind the high school.

Next weekend (June 11-12), the 13- to 15-year-olds will play at three Batavia sites -- Batavia High School at 260 State St., John Kennedy Elementary School at 166 Vine St., and GCC at 1 College Road -- and Barrie Park, just outside of Albion.

Finally, the 16- to 18-year-olds will play Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19 at these same four locations and at Pembroke High School.

Four games are played at each location every day of the tournament. Start times for each game are 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. They are free and open to the public, and food is available.

As difficult and time-consuming as it has been to coordinate this whole thing, Turvey is grateful for the amount of support the tournament has gotten from the Genesee County community.

"Everybody's been fantastic," he said. "The government agencies, the hotels, the chamber...the schools have also been very supportive."

If you have any questions or would like more information, call Turvey at (716) 462-8155. I spoke with him a minute ago, and he said that today's games are still on; they're just waiting for the weather to clear up a bit.

SUPPLEMENTAL PHOTOS:

A rather "impressive" wooden bear guards the entrance to the Darien Lake lodge (right near where the kids came to pick up their tickets). Here he is a bit more close up.

January 6, 2011 - 2:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, tourism.

In 2010, bed-tax revenue returned to normal, said Kelly Rapone, director of tourism and marketing for Genesee County.

After abnormal years in 2008 and 2009 -- when first a lot of construction drove the revenue numbers up to record heights, and then a recession and bad summer weather caused revenue to plummet -- 2010 put revenue back on the growth track of previous years.

Not every hotel did equally as well. Darien Lake Theme Park grabbed most of the revenue and the growth. But overall, last year was a good one for Genesee County tourism.

"It was a really good season, but it was a mixed bag," Rapone said. "The bulk of the number is driven by Darien Lake. They were going gangbusters this summer, while some other hotels were down a bit."

Recently, Darien Lake added 24 "Brown Bear" cabins, which can sleep up to eight and offer extra amenities, as well as added other accommodations. The Darien strategy has been to try to keep guests on site.

"The did keep a lot of business," Rapone said. "I would say eight of 10 calls we got here were from people wanting to stay on the property."

In all bed-tax revenue in 2010 was $356,133, up slightly from the last "normal" year, 2007, when it was $350,435.

While Darien Lake accounted for about one-third of the bed-tax revenue, the theme park also did a lot to bring people into the county, which helped a lot of other businesses.

The concert season was "awesome," Rapone said.

"If you were anywhere in Western New York, you couldn't escape the advertising for Darien Theme Park," Rapone added.

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