Power Authority Unveils Plans for $5 Million Visitors Center

Bob Hadler
(315) 764-0226 ext. 300

January 29, 2004


CANTON – The New York Power Authority Thursday unveiled plans for a new $5 million visitors center for its St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project in Massena.

Addressing the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce meeting here, Robert Hadler, the Power Authority’s community relations manager at St. Lawrence-FDR, said that construction of the facility would begin this spring.

“Our trustees have approved the construction of this new facility and we expect to be going to bid very shortly,” said Hadler. “We want to have shovels in the ground as soon as the weather permits and we have every expectation that we will cut the ribbon and open the center in time for the 2005 tourism season.”

The former visitors center, located in the Barnhart Island end of the Robert Moses-Robert Saunders Power Dam, was a popular tourism stop for visitors to the North Country, hosting over 5 million visitors since it opened in 1959.

It was temporarily closed to the public immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and permanently closed after a thorough security analysis of all Power Authority facilities.

“We announced then, in May 2002, that we would build a new visitors center at Hawkins Point,” said Hadler. “This new site, facing the power dam across the project’s tailrace, will provide a dramatic new vista for the thousands of people we expect to visit the new center. This will be a major addition to the tourist attractions in the St. Lawrence Valley.”

Paul Haggett, executive director of the Massena Chamber of Commerce, said the announcement was a major plus for the tourism industry.

“Hawkins Point is an ideal site for this visitors center and I can hardly wait for the grand opening,” said Haggett.

Karen St. Hilaire, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said, “We were disappointed when the Power Authority was forced to close the old visitors center, but today’s announcement more than makes up for that disappointment. We’re very much looking forward to opening day.”

Sandy Cook, Town of Massena Supervisor, said, “Tourism is a very important part of our economy and this $5 million announcement is just the great news that we’ve been waiting for.”

Ken MacDonnell, mayor of the Village of Massena, echoed those sentiments. “I know a lot of people, residents and visitors alike, have been disappointed since the center was closed, but this new facility will put a whole new face on our tourism activities.”

Ernie LaBaff, president emeritus of the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers International Union, said, “This is a great way to restore a major tourist attraction while assuring the safety of this absolutely vital electricity production facility.”

Hadler said the new building will incorporate all of the exhibits from the current visitors center, exhibits that were installed during a $1.5 million renovation and upgrade that was completed in July 2000.

A Watertown architectural contractor, Bernier Carr & Associates is working on a final design for a partial two-story building with the main floor dedicated to public displays, a theater and a community room. The basement will house staff offices, storage and mechanical and utility rooms.

The new center will also have a new outdoor area to host community events.

The site of the new center, Hawkins Point, will also be enhanced by improved boat access and parking. The improvements are included in the new 50-year license granted to the Power Authority last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The enhancements and the new construction will be implemented in concert with each other.