PETER CONRADI AND JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
NIAGARA FALLS – The iconic Maid of Mist boats may not run on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls this season or next, the company that runs the world-famous tours says.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Christopher Glynn president of the Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co., said the loss of its lease with the Niagara Parks Commission for boat docking space on the Canadian shore near the base of the Horseshoe Falls creates “uncertainties” and may mean the company won’t operate from Canada anymore.
Glynn’s comments came a little more than an hour after Niagara Parks officials announced the agency has awarded a new 30-year lease to Hornblower Canada, a California-based company that operates boat tours of Alcatraz Island, in San Franciso, and the Statue of Liberty, in New York City. Hornblower is slated to take over in the spring of 2014.
“Today we learned that the Maid of the Mist’s bid for the renewal of its lease with the Niagara Parks Commission was rejected by the Ontario government,” Glynn said in the statement.
“As a result of this decision, our business, with a 165-year history of service to tourists from around the world, may soon come to an end. The Maid of the Mist has provided world famous, safe, reliable and affordable boat tour service, and its trademarked brand name has become synonymous with the Niagara Falls experience, drawing millions of tourists to the region annually.
Glynn continued: “The implications of this decision are very complex, and impact on many parties and create many uncertainties, including whether or not a boat tour service will be offered in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 2012. We are carefully assessing our position and will be consulting with other affected parties as we attempt to address the many serious issues resulting from this decision.”
The Glynn family has owned Maid of the Mist since 1971.
They own the Canadian Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. and the Maid of the Mist Corp., which holds a separate lease with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to run boat tours on the American side.
Neither Glynn nor any other Maid of the Mist spokesperson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Niagara Parks Commission Chairwoman Janice Thomson said Wednesday night she understood the disappointment the Glynns must be feeling, but added the process was fair to everyone.
“The one comfort I have is that it was an open and very, very fair process. I feel it is something that anyone can look at and examine and know that it was done with all fairness in mind.”
Thomson also said she hopes the Glynns will reconsider their stand and run the boats for the next two summers.
“We’ll obviously have to sit down and have a conversation with them. If that’s their position, we will have to talk to them about that. Clearly we dont want to see a year without any boats in the water. That’s not our intention at all.
“They should be proud of what they do. It would be in their interests to operate it.”
The Glynns can continue to run the Maid of the Mist on a month-by-month basis until the launch of the new company’s boats.
“It’s a very lucrative business,” she said. “They don’t have an obligation to run boat tours (for the next two summers) but they have an opportunity, and I think they would want to do that. They do it very well and should be very proud of their accomplishments.”
She said NPC staff will arrange a meeting as soon as possible with the Glynns.
“Certainly their message is there and we need to address it. I would think that because everyone knew the announcement was coming out soon and we were not in negotiations with them, they would have known they were not going to be the successful bidder. It wouldn’t have come as any surprise or a shock to them today.”
Niagara Falls City Coun. Wayne Thomson, president of Niagara Falls Tourism and a former city mayor, said if Glynn decides not operate Maid of the Mist this season, it’s not the fault of Niagara Parks.
The process for selecting the winning bidder was comprehensive and Maid of the Mist had an opportunity to bid on the lease renewal. It’s up to them to decide whether they continue on running tours until the new company begins operating, but Thomson thinks it would be a mistake for Maid of the Mist to halt operations prematurely.
“That would be a disappointment and probably a bad decision on their part… but Niagara Parks can’t control that,” Coun. Thomson said.
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said he believes Glynn’s comments saying the company may not continue running the Maid of the Mist is likely a “knee-jerk reaction” to hearing the news the company had not been granted a lease extention.
Craitor said he doesn’t know the Glynn family, but they have “always provided and excellent service” and he believes they will continue to do so as long as they can.
With two years left to operate, there’s still plenty of money to be made.
“Are you going to give up a bundle of money just because you weren’t chosen?”
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said he isn’t concerned.
Diodati, too, complimented the Glynn’s on their record of service, but like Craitor, say he believes they ultimately decide to continue to operate once “the dust settles.”
“Businesses make decisions based on economics – not emotions,” said Diodati.
“They’ve been good corporate citizens… but having said that, I think there’s just too much money on the table for them to walk away now. They still have two seasons of revenue opportunities and I would hope they will take advantage of that,” Diodati said.