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New Adirondack welcome center cost $16 million in taxpayer money

November 08, 2018 06:29 PM

QUEENSBURY - Thousands of people have already stopped in to check out the new Adirondack Welcome Center in between Exits 17 & 18 on the Northway.

The facility opened in late September and offers a ton of amenities.

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However, building it cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money. So NewsChannel 13 wanted to know how much is too much -- and is the finished product worth the investment?

The facility cost $16.2 million to build. It offers things like a boat inspection and wash station, a playground and vending machines offering only products made in New York.

The goal is to boost tourism. However, considering how much time people typically spend in rest areas, is $16 million a worthy investment?

"I don't know. I'd say we were probably in there at most like 10 minutes," admitted Adrian Garcia Sega from Connecticut.

He and Sandra Haddad stopped at the Adirondack Welcome Center on their way to a conference in Bolton Landing.

"It's a beautiful place. It's very comforting. When you walk in, it's very relaxing and soothing and it puts you in kind of a, 'Ooh I'm in a vacation place, this is great,'" explained Haddad.

Alexander Mozeleski and Eddie Bridgefort – both from the Capital Region – were equally impressed. Bridgefort pointed out a zipline – and a giant "I ? NY" sign.

"That's what brought me in – that big sign. I never saw that before. That's cool," he exclaimed.

Then, they learned the cost of the project: $16.2 million in taxpayer money.

"That's a little steep, but at the same time it shows," reasoned Mozeleski. "It's really nice on the inside."

The money for the center was allocated in the 2017/18 state budget.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to the New York State Department of Transportation to get the specific costs for the project. They declined an on camera interview, but did send a breakdown.

They say $8 million was spent on the building itself, which is 8,600 square feet. Then, $720,000 was spent on the mechanical work, another $630,000 on the plumbing, $5.75 million went to site work and $650,000 was spent on the boat wash.

"I guess the question is what had to be given up?" wondered Haddad.  "Where would that money have gone otherwise? But it's a beautiful building."

"Like I said, if it attracts people, if it brings more people to the area, it brings more money to the area, I guess," reasoned Mozeleski.

That's what the state is hoping. In fact, they say regional tourism generates more than $1.4 billion in visitor spending. They say last year, more than 12.4 million people visited the Adirondacks.

It's hoped this center will serve as a comfortable, modern gateway to the Adirondacks region, which, at six million acres, is the largest publicly protected park in the contiguous United States.

The question is, will the welcome center keep people coming back?

"I would make a point next time knowing that it's here, I might stop and check out the area a little more," admitted Haddad.

"I think it's worth it," asserted Eddie Bridgefort. "I say yes, I definitely will use it every year on my way up to Long Lake. So I mean, it works for me."

The Adirondack Welcome Center is just one of at least 11 that have been built or are under construction across the state. In all the cost of those projects total over $100 million. Though some of the specific project costs have been difficult to find.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to DOT for an interview several weeks before the story aired. The department director responded to some of our questions by email on the afternoon the story was slated to air.

Director of Communications Joe Morrissey says the Mohawk Valley Welcome Center, which opened in June of 2017.  DOT said it attracts about 8,700 visitors a month and direct visitor spending in the region increased by $104 million last year.

Credits

Emily Burkhard

Copyright 2018 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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