It was talked about for a decade. It took two years to build.
But since it completed construction in early 2020, the 5,000-seat, $140-million Fallsview Casino Entertainment Center has sat empty.
No concerts. No events. And still no sign it will be opening soon.
After announcing a handful of shows for the spring and summer, a message on the Fallsview Casino Resort website now says all entertainment at the venue is “currently paused.”
For now, all concerts at Fallsview are in the casino’s original venue, the 1,500-seat Avalon Theatre. Including some, like ZZ Top last week, that were originally booked for the new theater.
Adding to the confusion, no reason has been given — by Fallsview Casino or Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) — for the delay.
It’s a situation that has flustered Mayor Jim Diodati, who was counting on the new theater to be a key part of the city’s summer tourism season.
“I’m beyond frustrated,” he said. “I’ve been very open and vocal and aggressive with my frustrations that this is not open. It should have been open months ago.”
Diodati has long been a proponent of a new casino concert venue, believing it would attract bigger performers to further support tourism and benefit local residents
In 2017, OLG announced a consortium called Niagara Falls Entertainment Partners would build the project, including Mississauga company Bird Construction, which would “perform the design and construction.”
Soon after, it was revealed the theater would be built on a location next to Hilton Hotel — facing Stanley Avenue — and be connected to Fallsview Casino via a walkway. It was expected to open in mid-2019. After a provincewide sheet metal strike, the opening was moved to the end of 2019.
But work continued into early 2020 until Fallsview finally announced a slate of shows at the venue, including country singer Brad Paisley as the first concert on April 2, 2020.
Then the pandemic hit.
The city’s two casinos were shuttered until July 2021, but live shows did not return until a week of “Canada’s Got Talent” tapings in November and a brief run of “Christmas Wonderland” in December, both at the Avalon Theater.
Meanwhile, shows originally booked at Fallsview Casino Entertainment Center were either canceled or moved to the Avalon. A show by comedian Iliza Schlesinger was scheduled for June 5, but the next show — REO Speedwagon — was two months later.
Asked earlier this year about the delay, Niagara Casinos president Richard Taylor would not clarify why the venue still wasn’t open, saying that “planning is ongoing.”
Reached this week, Taylor still wouldn’t explain the delay.
“We look forward to providing updates as more details become available,” he said in an emailed statement. “Opening and performance dates are still subject to ongoing work with our partners to get the facility performance ready.”
Diodati said there are issues with the “specs” of the building, and “there’s a little bit of finger-pointing going on right now.”
“I don’t know whose fault it is. I’ve asked that question and I didn’t get a good definitive answer. At the end of the day, I don’t care whose fault it is, I want it open and perfect.”
He added OLG is committed to opening the theater by September or October.
“I don’t disagree with this — you get one chance at a first impression,” he said. “That place has to be 10 out of 10 in terms of sound, visuals, the experience.”
Neither Bird Construction nor OLG responded to a request for comment.