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NYPA undertaking $13 million modernization of visitor centers

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WHITE PLAINS—The New York Power Authority announced Thursday that they are undertaking a more than $13 million modernization of its three hydroelectric project visitors centers in Northern New York, Western New York and the Northern Catskills, to upgrade the exhibits, displays and facilities.

The comprehensive redesign and reconstruction will incorporate the latest hands-on interactive technologies and reflect the transformative changes occurring in New York state’s electric power industry under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo from the increased use of clean renewable power resources, smart grid technologies and energy efficiency.

The state-of-the-art upgrades, including large touch screens, multimedia and exhibit connectivity to the Internet, will be undertaken at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center, in Massena; the Niagara Power Vista Visitors Center, in Lewiston;and the Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center, in North Blenheim.

Last year, the three facilities drew nearly 200,000 visitors, as key tourist attractions for those parts of the state.In addition to their exhibits and displays on energy and NYPA power programs and customers, the facilities are community centers for special events, such as wildlife festivals, antique car shows and Fourth of July and Halloween celebrations, and for wide-ranging civic activities.

The NYPA Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a multi-million dollar competitively bid contract award to Hadley Exhibits, Inc., a Buffalo firm, to develop content and detailed designs for the fabrication and installation of the new exhibits. The award followed a previously approved contract authorization with another New York firm that conducted preliminary engineering work for the new exhibits and of other additions and modifications to the facilities that have a significant element of NYPA staff involvement.

“The Power Authority’s three visitors center facilities are learning centers about energy, including hydroelectric power development and use in the north country,” said Judge Eugene L. Nicandri, a NYPA trustee and Massena resident. “The multi-million dollar upgrades that we’re planning for the visitors centers will provide exciting new opportunities to engage the public on the latest energy technologies, while furthering the importance of these community centers.”

“The modernization and redesign of our visitors centers will further add to the value of these important community resources as must-see attractions for locals and tourists alike,”Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and chief executive officer, said. “The Power Authority takes great pride in the integral role that our visitors centers play in the communities and in their highlighting our sustainable hydroelectric plants and the new energy technologies that we deploy in our business and with our customers.”

In addition to the multiple dimensions of the new hands-on exhibits, the improvements will also include redesigned floor layouts to enhance accessibility, and modified signage, lighting and electrical infrastructure.

The construction at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center, which features an outstanding view of the St. Lawrence-FDR hydroelectric plant from across the South Channel of the St. Lawrence River, will begin in the fall of 2016 with the upgrades to be completed by the spring of 2017.

The Hawkins Point center’s seven-day-a-week operating hours are not expected to be affected by the exhibit upgrades, which will be largely conducted between the fall and spring months to avoid the summer tourism season. NYPA will coordinate the work with Hadley to mitigate any impact on visitors and will keep the public informed.

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