Welcome Center Signifies Gateway to the Region's World-Class Destinations and Attractions and Features Taste NY Market, WNY Walk of Fame, and Interactive Tourism Information
Western New York Also Advances Multiple Tourism Initiatives Including Frank Lloyd Wright's Barton House and Graycliff Estate
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening the Western New York Welcome Center in Grand Island. 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," Governor 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 Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who delivered today's announcement. "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."
Located in the Town of Grand Island and between the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, the Western New York Welcome Center is accessible from the Niagara Thruway (I-190) exit 19 (Whitehaven Road) via Alvin Road. Approximately 23.7 million motorists travel past this location each year.
The new Western New York Welcome Center, one of 11 welcome centers located across New York State, will feature 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. The current menu and list of products available can be found here. The Taste NY Market will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
Open 24 hours a day, the Welcome Center features 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, pet comfort area, and parking spaces for cars, buses/RVs, and trucks.
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, the Thruway Authority has invested millions of dollars into key projects in Western New York in 2018, including cashless tolling at the Grand Island Bridges and the Western New York Welcome Center. Governor Cuomo recognizes that by supporting the regional economy, we are attracting more attention to tourist attractions in communities across Western New York and beyond."
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "I'm thrilled to see the Western New York Welcome Center open with a Taste NY Market and cafe, featuring products grown and produced in New York State. Since Governor Cuomo announced his vision for a buy-local program in 2013, Taste NY has grown to promote our food and beverage businesses, which saw more than $16.1 million in sales just last year. This latest Welcome Center in Grand Island will give thousands of visitors each year the opportunity to get a taste of New York and support our local producers."
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 Governor 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."
Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray said, "I am so proud of the new Western New York Welcome Center and am especially proud that it's here on Grand Island, the link between the vibrancy of Buffalo and the beauty of Niagara Falls. This welcome center is a true celebration of Western New York: it's past, present and future. We pay homage to visionaries like Frank Lloyd Wright who dreamed and created here, celebrate Western New Yorkers like Lucille Ball and Tim Russert who made the world brighter and better, and inspire today's generation to keep building. For visitors and Western New Yorkers alike, this is a beautiful way to say welcome and I'm proud to have worked with Governor Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Hochul and other champions of our region."
Other Tourism Announcements
The Governor also announced that Frank Lloyd Wright's Barton House has been returned to its original, historic presentation and is now open for visitors. The Prairie-style house, built in 1903, is located on Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House complex, a 1.5-acre site in the historic Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo and a world-class destination for architecture enthusiasts. The complex exemplifies Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie House ideal and ranks as one of his finest residential works.
The restoration effort was supported by a $5 million Buffalo Billion II investment to ensure complete restoration of Wright's vision and allow the region to fully benefit from its economic impact as a major tourism driver. The site already attracts nearly 40,000 visitors annually, with many guests coming from outside of Western New York, including a significant number of international visitors. Economic analysts have projected that the restored site will generate nearly $20 million of annual economic impact for the region and the state.
In addition, the renovation of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff Estate in Derby will be complete in October 2018. The estate is currently undergoing a $4 million renovation project, which includes complete interior restoration of both the Isabelle Martin House and the Foster House, landscaping improvements and rebuilding beach access. The interior restoration project will continue to build on the $6 million exterior restoration already completed by the Graycliff Conservancy since 1997. The project is supported with a $3.7 million in Buffalo Billion Phase II funding to fully bring the property back to its condition in 1931. Video of the improvements is available here.
Since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo has made unprecedented investments in the tourism industry throughout New York State, resulting in historic levels of visitors and direct spending. Last year, New York welcomed a record 243.8 million visitors who spent $67.6 billion, generating a total economic impact of more than $100 billion for the fourth straight year. Tourism is now the state's third largest employer, supporting 938,800 jobs annually.
Western New York has seen a boon in tourism in recent years with its revitalized waterfront and neighborhoods, burgeoning craft beer scene and new attractions, restaurants and hotels drawing more people for longer stays. Nearly 18.8 million tourists visited the region in 2017, up 15.8 percent since 2011. Direct spending by tourists in the region topped $3.04 billion in 2017, an increase of 23.2 percent since 2011. The region's architecture, world-renowned art scene and natural wonders continue to reinvent themselves, enticing visitors from far and wide.
National and international media has largely covered the economic transformation in Western New York. The New York Times named Buffalo one of its 52 Places to Go in 2018, London's Sunday Times lauded it as "America's Coolest City" and Time Magazine named Hotel Henry one of the Greatest Places 2018. Notably, the tourism industry provided more than 70,000 jobs in the WNY region in 2017, up 16.3 percent since 2011. Wages paid by the tourism industry in WNY topped $1.6 billion in 2017, an increase of nearly 41 percent from 2011--average wage of a job in tourism was up more than 24 percent.