Oct 6, 2017
DARIEN — A new attraction is coming to Darien Lake, but the mystery and excitement that builds while in line for a roller coaster is accompanying the project.
Darien Lake General Manager Chris Thorpe told the Genesee County Economic Development Center Thursday that the theme park is “purposefully not disclosing what the ride will be at this time,” citing the need for it to be approved within the company and with the Town of Darien.
“It’s very hard for me to not come out of my skin in excitement, to talk about what we want to do,” Thorpe said. “We believe this ride, and the investment level into its size, scope and family thrill level will entice families from all over the northeast and into southern Ontario and Canada. People will reap the rewards of visiting Darien Lake and see what Genesee County has to offer.”
The ride will be Darien Lake’s first major investment since the RipCurl Racer waterslide in 2016. Thorpe said the project will invest roughly $5 million within the current footprint of the park and be operational by 2018.
“It’s in a spot dedicated for expansion,” Thorpe said.
Darien Lake Holdings LLC is requesting a $360,000 sales tax exemption from Genesee County to support the tourism project. GCEDC’s board accepted an initial resolution for the incentives, and is on track to act on the proposal later this year.
As for Darien Lake, Thorpe said the 2017 season — which ended last weekend — was one of challenges met.
Park attendance has been relatively consistent in the past three years, but 2017 showed the power of both the weather and market trends. Out of 110 operating days, 46 were compromised by rain.
“It was amazing,” Thorpe said. “While we adjusted to that weather, and that dynamic with promotional programs that stimulated the market and drove our attendance, what we recognized were some categorical shifts that indicated we were losing ground in the outer markets — we were real good at mining attendance from locally, but further away it impacted us.”
Darien Lake’s campground and hotel ventures are facing a shorter window of consumer decisions, Thorpe said. Instead of booking a vacation well in advance, consumers are making their choices with less than two weeks until their planned stays.
“People hunt around, waiting to see what the weekend will be like,” he said.
In other matters:
■ O-AT-KA Milk Products latest expansion to the milk cooperative’s Ellicott Street facility is a strategic move, CFO Michael Fuchs told the GCEDC.
“O-AT-KA has undergone quite a bit of expansion over the past few years. The latest project just adds to it,” Fuchs said of a 20,000 square-foot expansion set to be ready by early next year. “We did a five-year strategic plan for where we wanted to take the business, which involved a lot of significant additional growth ... the foundation of that is space.”
O-AT-KA recently expanded its warehousing storage, and the incoming $4.3 million project will at least initially serve that role. Fuchs said the cooperative wants to be prepared for when a new customer or product line is needed.
“There’s a time-sensitive nature to this — the business is growing exponentially, and we have our competitors doing a lot of expansion,” Fuchs said. “This prepares ourselves for when the opportunity presents itself, we need the space to accommodate a quick turnaround ... Our desire is to get a shovel in the ground and have a structure enclosed that we can utilize for warehouse until opportunity presents itself.”
An initial resolution to consider sales and property tax exemptions totaling $370,213 was accepted by the GCEDC board.