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Parks commission invites bids on boat tour contract

Want to operate a tour boat from the Canadian shores of the lower Niagara River?

Then, the Niagara Parks Commission wants to hear from you and your company.

The parks commission, Friday afternoon, set a Nov. 24 deadline for any company to bid on tour boat operations. The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. has been running tour boats from both the U.S. and Canadian shores of the lower Niagara River for generations and while its U.S. pact runs for more than three decades, it’s Canadian lease has been under fire for the past year.

Last year, a 25-year extension between the Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. and Niagara Parks Commission became a political issue in Southern Ontario as some potential competitors cried foul. The uproar resulted in several commission members resigning and a new regime installed to oversee its operations.

The Maid of the Mist pact was voided, with a promise by the commission to begin a new proposal process. The Maid of the Mist boats have been operating this season under a temporary deal with the parks commission.

On Friday, the Parks Commission issued a formal RFP.

“The process has been and will continue to be open, transparent and fair,” said Fay Booker, Parks Commission chairperson.

The boats leave from leased space, owned by the parks commission, in the lower Niagara Gorge.

“Potential proponents will also be assessed on their ability to meet all mandatory requirements and uphold marine safety standards at all times,” Booker said.

The Ontario RFP process does not impact its U.S. operations from the Niagara State Park Reservation. The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. has a deal in place with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that runs through 2042.

The issue of Maid of the Mist Steamboat’s contract has been lingering in Ontario since early 2008. At least one competitor, Ripley Entertainment expressed a strong interest in taking over the operation. Ripley Entertainment has a strong presence in Niagara Falls, Ont., including operation of several museums along Clifton Hill and the Great Wolf Lodge.

The Maid of the Mist boat rides are among the most popular attractions in Niagara Falls. A Who’s Who of riders have taken the ride through the lower gorge and to the edge of Horseshoe and American Falls. Among its more famous riders include Princess Diana, members of the Rolling Stones and actor Brad Pitt.

The Maid of the Mist boats typically run between April and October.

The boats, in 2009, attracted 2.2 million riders. Given the better weather and less border-crossing issues, that number is expected to increase this year.

The Canadian operations, traditionally account for 75 percent of the Maid of the Mist riders, although this year the split was closer to 65 percent to 35 percent in favor of Canada.

Booker said she hopes to have a new lease in place before the start of the 2011 season.

“Through the lease of this land, the NPC’s objective is to facilitate the offering of a boat tour which will meet the needs of the NPC, while continuing to enhance the visitor experience in this tourism community,” Booker said.

Read more: Niagara Parks opens river boat bidding – Business First of Buffalo

This article was originally published here .

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5 Responses
  1. Mike says:

    It is a damn shame they even have to go through with this process, thanks to Bob Gale and politics. There was nothing wrong with the current operator, they have a stellar reputation, unblemished safety record and have achieved an iconic world wide status, all accomplished providing a quality attraction without price gouging the tourists like every other NF attraction. The Maid of the Mist has always contributed to Niagara’s tourism industry. Finding some other operator that will pay more rent to the NPC is no excuse for changing what has worked for decades.

  2. master says:

    I love the Maid of the Mist, but as a taxpayer wouldn’t it be fair that I get the highest possible price for the boat operations? A few extra million dollars could be used in creating better festivals, events, community programs, and improving the parks in Niagara.

  3. Mike says:

    The NPC is self funded, self sustaining so being a “taxpayer” doesn’t have much to do with it considering your taxes aren’t being used for park purposes. If the NPC has seen fit over the years to grant a continued lease to the Maid of the Mist at whatever deal they had worked out then they must be receiving what they feel is adequate fees. Just because someone can do it cheaper won’t make it better and the Maids have proven themselves as a world class attraction that do not sacrifice safety or feature unreasonable prices.

    The Maid of the Mist charge 15.60 for a ride of a lifetime, reasonable when you consider Ripley’s entertainment inc…one of the companies readying a bid for operations of the tours currently charge $15.81 for a tour of their tacky wax museum atop Clifton Hill. If Ripley’s were to win and were charged millions more for rent, where do you think that money will come from? Fleecing tourists like they do already. For what? So the NPC can put on more free concerts and three nights of fireworks?

    When i talk to people from around the world and they mention their memories or the image that they have of Niagara Falls, many positive things come up and almost every time so does the Maid of the Mist. However they also remember many of the tacky tourist traps, wax museums, arcades and price gouging. Let’s keep one of the few quality and historic attractions we have going for us alone.

  4. Adam White says:

    I haven’t read the RFP myself but I’m curious as to what kind of transitional requirements there are for the future operator of this attraction. I can’t imagine the current operator is planning to hand over their boats and facilities for cheap should they lose the bid.

    As a disruption in this attraction could be very bad for the area I wonder what sort of assurances the bidders can provide that we won’t be without the Maid for a year or more.

    Adam /

  5. Tim Archer says:

    Very interesting, I remember traveling to Niagra Falls as a kid and going on Maid of the Mist. What an experience. I fell in love with boating not too soon after and later in life began a journey on how to make a boat
    of my own. I know have many boats I built myself that I enjoy sharing with others.

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