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NYPA announces modernization of Hawkins Point Visitors Center

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MASSENA - The New York Power Authority’s Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center in Massena will be receiving $2.4 million in upgrades to exhibits, displays and facilities, including the latest in hands-on interactive technology.

The announcement was made by NYPA officials on Thursday followed approval by the NYPA Board of Trustees and is part of an overall $13 million modernization of its three hydroelectric project visitors centers in Northern New York Western New York and the Northern Catskills.

The state-of-the-art upgrades will include large touch screens, multimedia and exhibit connectivity to the Internet. The modernization will also take place at the Niagara Power Vista Visitors Center in Lewiston and the Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center in North Blenheim.

NYPA officials said the new redesign, reconstruction and exhibits will reflect the changes taking place in the state’s electric power industry, from the increased use of clean renewable power resources to smart grid technologies and energy efficiencies. The current exhibits at the Hawkins Point Visitors Center were installed when the facility opened in the summer of 2005.

“Some of the exhibits are not functional due to wear and tear and not necessarily relevant. Because of what’s going on with rapid industry changes we want to reflect how New York state is being a leader both domestic and globally,” NYPA spokesperson Julieanne Sullivan said.

She said the exhibits would highlight some of the programs initiated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“It will be much more interactive. We’ll look at present day technologies and current programs, but also discuss some of the major changes to the energy business. There are changes happening in the way electricity is being used as well as distributed. We really are kind of in the vanguard of supporting these new technological changes. If you don’t do it, then you’re going to be left behind,” Ms. Sullivan said.

“The Power Authority’s three visitors center facilities are learning centers about energy, including hydroelectric power development and use in the north country,” Judge Eugene L. Nicandri, a NYPA trustee and Massena resident said in a statement. “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 visitor’s center had been on the top floor of the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project until Sept. 11, 2001 when public access to the dam was ended.

“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 in a statement. “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.

NYPA’s Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a multi-million dollar competitively bid contract award to Buffalo-based Hadley Exhibits, Inc. 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.

Construction at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center will begin in the fall of 2016, with the upgrades completed by the spring of 2017.

NYPA officials said the 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. They said they will coordinate the work with Hadley to mitigate any impact on visitors and will keep the public informed.

The three facilities drew nearly 200,000 visitors, as key tourist attractions for those parts of the state, according to NYPA officials. 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.

“We consider our position as really members of the community. It will still continue the same community activities that the north country has grown to expect. We consider it a really serious part of our obligation to have our plant located in Massena and improving the quality of life in the area,” Ms. Sullivan said. “We’re really looking at not just our community, but to make it more of a robust tourist destination. I think all of these things lend themselves.”

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