Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Many Promises of Marineland

In five decades Marineland has grown from a tacky roadside attraction that featured a couple sea lions in a steel tank to a supposed world class amusement park on the outskirts of touristy Niagara Falls.  Marineland owner John Holer has been busy buying up plots of land over the years, often with controversy  and now this so called "marine wonderland" encompasses  1,000 acres.  This makes Marineland the 3rd largest North American amusement park by size yet most of it sits undeveloped.

Marineland has made many promises and announcements over the years in regards to its expansion plans.  Often this was done to apply pressure in securing deals for land under sketchy circumstances.  They have also made grandiose announcements of millions of dollars in investments and job creation to position themselves as an integral part of the business community.  Almost all of the promises have never come to fruition and a quick tour of the park and its facilities will give most people the impression of a dated unfinished look from the 1970's. By theme park standards it is most certainly not a world class attraction and fits in more appropriately with the gimmicky reputation of Niagara Falls and its history of wax museums and cheap souvenir shops.

John Holer's optimistic hucksterism began in the late 1970's and early 80's when Marineland began expanding from essentially an animal circus to bringing in amusement park rides for the first time.  His boasts caught the attention of the Niagara Falls Review in March 1980 where he promised Marineland would rival Disneyworld with a $75 million dollar expansion, employ 2000 people and feature a monorail, canal system and mountain complete with fire breathing dragon.  None of this ever materialized.

In 1989 Holer was at it again after dodging a tax increase by the Ontario government and bluffing to move Marineland to the United States (where his taxes would have actually doubled) he announced a $30 million dollar expansion.  This time he was promising to build a 450,000 square foot village featuring commercial and restaurant space and that elusive boat canal ride once again.

In the late 90's Holer did make good on his decade old statement of building a larger pool for breeding orcas.  He also proclaimed he would build a new 10,000 seat stadium and a $160 million dollar indoor aquarium complex featuring dolphins, sharks and fish.  In a 1997 Niagara Falls Review article Holer claimed the 326,000 square feet complex was ahead of schedule and would be completed by 2002.  It was never built and Marineland would add just another pool area for beluga whales.  Their orca breeding program suffered a complete collapse with the death of all but one of their orcas.

Recently in 2013 Marineland produced a series of PR videos.  In one video, their spokesperson John Beattie reached into that old bag of tricks and pulled out another pie in-the-sky proclamation of a $250 million dollar expansion.  The money would be used to build "River Country" a canal boat and train ride, the very  same retreaded idea John Holer had been peddling since the 1970's.  As of this writing, nothing has been completed.

A look at this map of Marineland actually shows how little of it has been developed:

The red area represents the overall property
The blue area represents the actual area of development
The orange area represents the parking area
The yellow represents an annexed trailer park

Marineland has failed to deliver on its promises of a world class attraction and with owner John Holer nearing the age of 80 he is unlikely to oversee any other significant expansion of the park in his lifetime. Other nearby amusement parks such as Canada's Wonderland or Darien Lake have surpassed Marineland's revenues and re-invested into their properties making them fun and modern attractions.  Niagara Falls has been left with a third  rate attraction reminiscent of a depressing former Soviet era theme park compete with sad animals.

1 comment:

  1. marineland is a joke an embabasment for canada so much potebtial wasted poor management no expansion failed promises

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