Like most American city centers, Downtown Buffalo has been hurt by its share of bad ideas. For as long as I can remember, the Canalside district has been looked upon as a place where that trend might start being reversed. Situated at the mouth of the historic Erie Canal, the Canalside district currently sits vacant and undeveloped, as it has since before I was born.
Now that Bass Pro has pulled the plug on the retail outlet that was to be the anchor of Canalside development, we are in the prime position to create our own spark, to build something along the waterfront that will not only draw large numbers of people and initiate a sort of Downtown renaissance, but something that will be unique – a signature landmark that we can be proud of and enjoy at the same time.
I am talking, of course, about a downtown amusement park.
Before you write the idea off, consider it: A grand ferris wheel lights Buffalo’s skyline. An antique rollercoaster snakes its way around a midway while school groups take tours of the canal and naval museum. Families play mini-golf along the water while musicians play in a classic bandshell across the way. It is certainly not the kind of idea that would work anywhere, but is a slam-dunk for Buffalo.
Buffalo is a fun-loving city that lacks fun things to do. Be honest. When you want to have a good time, where do you go? Niagara Falls. Or you do a day trip to Darien Lake or a weekend in Toronto New York. Yes you do. Be honest. And no one is blaming you. It’s obvious why this is the case. These places have fun things to do. Downtown Buffalo doesn’t really have fun things to do. Sure, there are Sabres and Bisons games, and there are the summer concert series on the Canal and at Lafayette Square, but these things are seasonal, and limited to specific demographics. The right mix of attractions at a Canalside amusement park would bring tons of fun-seeking locals down to the waterfront every day and would spur growth throughout the entire downtown area.
A Canalside amusement park would be great for tourism. Tourists coming through Buffalo are already looking for a good time; They want to see the falls, to eat chicken wings and to go to the casinos. Tourists are not going to pull off the highway just to go shopping, but they will for an antique roller coaster. They won’t plan an extra day in the region to just to see a sporting event or to pay a visit to the Naval Park, but they might plan that extra day if a ferris wheel and cotton candy were involved.
Chicago’s Navy Pier, New York’s Coney Island and Luna Park in Sydney, Australia are only three of the many examples of successful waterfront amusement parks in urban settings that could be used as models for a similar place in Buffalo. Much like these places, a Buffalo Canalside Park should be open-access, merging the atmosphere of a traditional fun fair with the history and beauty of the Canalside district.
Mayor Brown is currently accepting ideas to present to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation in September. If you agree with that a waterfront amusement park is the perfect answer to Buffalo’s waterfront question, let him know! Even if you don’t, he should hear your ideas.
Here’s the link to the website where you can write to Mayor Brown personally: