Casino events

The waiting game continues for the opening of the new casino theater

We talked about it for a decade. It took two years to build.

But since construction ended in early 2020, the 5,000-seat, $140 million Fallsview Casino Entertainment Center has stood empty.

No gigs. No events. And still no sign that it will open soon.

After announcing a handful of shows for spring and summer, a message on the Fallsview Casino Resort website now says all entertainment on the site is “currently on hiatus”.

For now, all concerts in Fallsview take place in the casino’s original venue, the 1,500-seat Avalon Theater. Including some, like ZZ Top last week, which were originally booked for the new theater.

Adding to the confusion, no reason was given – by Fallsview Casino or Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) – for the delay.

It’s a situation that has troubled Mayor Jim Diodati, who was counting on the new theater to be a key part of the city’s summer tourist season.

“I’m beyond frustrated,” he said. “I’ve been very open and vocal and aggressive with my frustrations that it’s not been open. It should have been open months ago.

Diodati has long been a proponent of a new live venue at the casino, believing it would attract bigger artists to further support tourism and benefit local residents.

In 2017, OLG announced that a consortium called Niagara Falls Entertainment Partners would build the project, including Mississauga-based Bird Construction, which would “do the design and build.”

Shortly after, it was revealed that the theater would be built next to the Hilton Hotel – facing Stanley Avenue – and would be connected to the Fallsview Casino via a footbridge. Its opening was scheduled for mid-2019. After a provincial sheet metal strike, the opening was pushed back to late 2019.

But work continued in early 2020 until Fallsview finally announced a slate of live shows, including country singer Brad Paisley at the first concert on April 2, 2020.

Then the pandemic hit.

The city’s two casinos were closed 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 the Fallsview Casino Entertainment Center have either been 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 did not elaborate on why the site was still not open, saying “planning is underway”.

Reached this week, Taylor still hasn’t explained the delay.

“We look forward to providing updates as further details become available,” he said in an emailed statement. “Opening and performance dates are still subject to ongoing work with our partners to prepare for the performance of the facility.”

Diodati said there were issues with the “specifications” of the building, and “there’s a bit of finger pointing going on right now.”

“I don’t know whose fault it is. I asked this question and didn’t get a good definitive answer. In the end, I don’t care whose fault it is, I want it to be open and perfect.

He added that OLG is committed to opening the theater by September or October.

“I don’t disagree with that – you have a chance at first impression,” he said. “This place has to be 10 out of 10 in terms of sound, visuals, experience.”

Neither Bird Construction nor OLG responded to a request for comment.