It’s gorgeous. It really is.
The new Adirondack “Welcome Center” on the north side of the Northway between Exit 17 and Exit 18 is a masterpiece of such proportions, we wondered if it would be OK to bring some wine and cheese and hang out in the Adirondack chairs by the fireplace on some cold, winter night.
We think it would be a great place for our editorial board Christmas party.
The building has the look of a contemporary Adirondack lodge that welcomes visitors with an inlaid map of the Adirondacks in what looks like some sort of marble, a monster video board — maybe 6 feet by 12 feet — with a film loop of Adirondack landscapes so compelling, we’re considering dropping all future vacation plans to vacation here at home.
QUEENSBURY — In 2013, when local tourism leaders were pushing for improvements at the outdated Northway rest area on the northbound side betwe…
There are interactive kiosks for information, vending machines with sandwiches made by local eateries and a small display of historical artifacts from around the region.
Did we mention the stone fireplace?
If you have a question, a staff member from the Lake George Chamber of Commerce mans a desk from 9 to 5 each day.
Outside there is a dog-walking pen, a playground for the kids and, yes, a small zip line.
But here is our problem. The cost was $16.2 million. The original proposal was $2 million.
There is nice and there is Buckingham Palace nice.
Sen. Elizabeth Little’s original plan to renovate the existing rest stop bathrooms managed to intersect with a Cuomo administration initiative to create welcome centers around the state to sell tourists.
It provides a “Wow” factor that lets travelers know there is more to the Adirondacks than Lake George.
The execution has been flawless.
What concerns us is whether most weary travelers are willing to spend the time, and have the inclination, to use the “Welcome Center” for the purpose it was intended — planning and further enhancing their vacations.
Or are they just looking for clean restrooms?
Several members of our editorial board have spent a lot of time on the New York State Thruway over the years, and we’ve found our needs to be simple. Once we are done using the restroom and gotten gas for the car, we want to be on our way. We don’t loiter.
This past week — granted it was the middle of the week in early October — there were a dozen cars parked in the parking lot at the new welcome center and a half-dozen people wandering around inside. Several asked the chamber representatives questions during the 30-minute visit. We even saw one kid take a quick turn on the zip line, but most seemed to be in and out.
What’s more of a concern is that the Cuomo administration seems to be making this part of its legacy for upstate New York, and we’re not sure it has thought it all the way through.
Sen. Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec have both been asked by constituents for a breakdown of what this cost. When a Post-Star reporter requested a breakdown, the Department of Transportation released only general spending information.
I wrote earlier this week about the cost of the new "welcome center" on the Northway south of Exit 18 in Queensbury, as some questioned the pr…
Our new Adirondack piece of heaven is one of 11 “Welcome Centers” that have been built around the state, and ours is not even the most expensive.
Earlier this year, a $20 million “Welcome Center” opened in the Niagara Falls region with a design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Was that necessary?
Out on I-90 near Canajoharie, the Mohawk Valley Welcome Center recently opened after costing some $12 million. A recent stop there by one of our board members found it deserted.
A breakdown of expenses for the new Finger Lakes Welcome Center revealed extravagances like upside-down canoe light fixtures — Gov. Cuomo has bragged that was his idea — that cost about $12,500 each to rig and light (there are four). The canoes were donated.
A printed, framed map of New York state — 7 inches by 5 inches — cost $9,900, two signs that point to the bathroom went for $6,240, and even a small sign that acknowledges the donation of the canoes cost taxpayers $1,014.
In 2016, the state announced it was putting $55 million toward welcome centers, but it is unclear what the total amount spent has been.
Gov. Cuomo said at the time that the welcome centers would “serve as gateways to new York’s unparalleled natural beauty.”
It’s a nice sentiment, but we wonder if most people just want a clean bathroom.
The politicians say the welcome centers will highlight all a region has to offer and push tourists to linger locally and spend more money.
That may be true to some extent, and the sales pitch we saw on the Northway was convincing, but we’re not sure if it will deliver $16 million in extra business anytime soon.
We wonder if spending $12 million or more for each “Welcome Center” is the best way to spend taxpayer money when so much infrastructure desperately needs to be improved.