Tag: harry oakes

    Massive Mario Kart-style go-kart track now open in Niagara Falls

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    From CBC News:

    Drivers, start your engines — a massive, roller coaster-like go-kart racetrack is now open in Niagara Falls, Ont.

    Tourism company HOCO Limited unveiled its new “Niagara Speedway” attraction on the Clifton Hill entertainment strip this week.

    “It’s like go-karts on steroids,” said Harry Oakes, HOCO’s president, in a statement. “You drive on a road course for a portion of the race and then spiral up … to about 40 feet, and then come down a long hill … kind of like the way a wooden coaster would be.”

    A sportscaster who specialized in fantasy

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    This is kind of a random article that came across my news feed about Bill Stern, a sports broadcaster from the 1940s. I have no idea if this particular story is true, but a Philadelphia Enquirer story shares the following…

    In 1946, Stern told the story of millionaire Harry Oakes. Decades earlier Oakes had been a hobo. De-training in Baltimore, he found a $1 bill. About to use it for food, he remembered hearing about a local orphan who pined for a baseball bat.

    Oakes bought the bat for the youngster and soon left town on a journey that led to his discovery of an untapped Canadian gold mine.

    “And that young orphan’s name was … Babe Ruth!”

    Of course, Harry Oakes’ name is all over the city of Niagara Falls as well!

    Top 10 names in mining

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    Surprisingly this article from the Sudbury Star talks about Harry Oakes but doesn’t mention at all his time in Niagara Falls or his contributions to the city, and the many locations that are named after him. For those who don’t know, Harry Oakes is connected to Oakes Garden Theatre (at the foot of Clifton Hill), Oak Hall (the Niagara Parks Commission headquarters), and the HOCO property on Clifton Hill.

    Canada is one of the great mining countries in the world. With the second-largest land mass and an entrepreneurial junior and senior mining culture – Toronto is the mine financing capital of the world for a reason – the mineral sector has been an integral part of this country’s history.

    Next year Canada is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of confederation, when a number of widely scattered British colonies joined forces to avoid being swallowed up by the expanding American giant to the south. Since the mainstream media largely ignores the enormous contributions of the mineral sector, it was time to highlight the top 10 movers and shakers in mining.

    The list is only focused on mine builders not mine finders…

    No. 10: The Golden Boys – Noah Timmins (Hollinger) and Harry Oakes (Lakeshore)

    Sharing the 10th spot on the list is Noah Timmins and Harry Oakes, well-known mine builders in the Timmins and Kirkland Lake camps, respectively…

    American-born and well-known for his cantankerous personality, Harry Oakes played an instrumental role in transforming Kirkland Lake into one of the world’s most significant gold camps…

    Lots and lots of links about the Destination Marketing Fee (DMF) in Niagara Falls

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    If you are interested in Niagara Falls, then you probably saw some of the articles that the Niagara Falls Review had about the Destination Marketing Fee (or DMF). It is essentially a fee that many tourism companies charge that can be used for whatever that company wants. It is not a true tax, there is no industry standard for how it is used, and it annoys a lot of people.

    Here are links to most of the articles (all of them from the Niagara Falls Review:

    DMF: The hidden fee (Part 1)

    It is the first day of March break, and the hockey moms aren’t happy.
    They’re spending the week in Niagara Falls for a tournament, and they’re stumped about a mysterious charge that keeps appearing on their bills.
    As they sit in a lobby overlooking Fallsview Boulevard, there it is again on their Starbucks bill, an extra amount on top of the already inflated price they paid for coffee in the tourist district.
    On a $14-bill is an extra $1.18 for something called a TIF. On other bills it’s called a PF. Or DMP. Or a DMDF. Or DMF.

    DMF: The hidden fee (Part 2)

    The provincial government has heard the complaints about the Destination Marketing Program.
    Tourism Minister Michael Coteau was asked about the controversial fee during a recent visit to Niagara Falls. He admits there are issues that need attention, but didn’t outline a concrete plan to fix them.
    “I’m exploring different ways to bring forward some more clarity on that one piece throughout Ontario,” he said, of what many perceive to be a lack of transparency around the voluntary marketing fee that businesses in tourist districts are allowed to charge, but which customers are also legally allowed to refuse to pay.

    DMF: The hidden fee (Part 3)

    Some of the biggest players in the Niagara Falls tourism industry don’t charge the controversial Destination Marketing Fee.
    Niagara Casinos. Harry Oakes. Hornblower. The Niagara Parks Commission.
    And some businesses in the Honeymoon Capital are going to put up, or are considering putting up, signs to let guests know they don’t charge it.

    How to complain about the DMF

    The DMF is a voluntary industry-led initiative for supporting regional tourism marketing, development.
    They are voluntary fees, not taxes, and consumers have the right to ask to have the fee removed from their bill.
    Province encourages tourism organizations and tourism partners to work collaboratively.
    Participating businesses are required to adhere to regulations under Consumer Protection Act.
    Consumers feeling misled can call with complaints and inquiries: 1-800-889-9768.

    Falls councillors weigh in on DMF

    “There’s just some concerns and I think it’s important the tourism industry come together and manage this before another level of government steps in and tries to manage it for them, and control it for them.” – Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati
    “There seems to be some mystery that these people in the industry aren’t spending the money on marketing and events, and that is false.” – Coun. Wayne Thomson, who is also chairman of Niagara Falls Tourism

    Ministry, tourism industry discussing DMF

    The Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and industry partners are reviewing the controversial Destination Marketing Fee.
    Ministry spokesperson Denelle Balfour said the program is being looked at during ongoing focus sessions across the province.
    She said the ministry is leading the development of a strategic framework for tourism in Ontario in collaboration with industry partners. As part of this work, the ministry is hosting focus sessions for members of the tourism industry, including in Niagara Falls.

    Falls tourism stakeholders discussing DMF

    Some of the big players in the Niagara Falls tourism industry are “talking seriously” about the Destination Marketing Fee, says Niagara Falls Tourism chairman Wayne Thomson.
    “The major stakeholders are getting together and getting a legal opinion on the DMF details, and trying to come up with a format that is going to be certainly transparent, which we think it is now,” said Thomson.
    “I can tell you that we are talking seriously about the DMF and trying to come up with something that is compatible with … (the stakeholders’) needs and their marketing efforts, and that is compatible with what the province would like to see.”
    The dialogue is a result of Tourism Minister Michael Coteau’s recent visit to Niagara Falls, where he spoke to industry partners about many tourism-related topics.

    EDITORIAL: Solving the DMF puzzle is up to the province

    It’s starting to happen already – more tourists and customers visiting Niagara Falls shops and hotels are asking if they’ll be charged a destination marketing fee with their purchase.
    And how are the desk clerks and wait staff and ticket takers supposed to answer?
    “Well, we don’t charge it but the guy next door does.”
    Or maybe, “we do charge it and so does the guy next door, but at least our fee is smaller than his.”

    ZAVITZ: Historic property ready for another chapter

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    From the Niagara Falls Review:

    As recently reported in the Review, a massive redevelopment is underway on the south side of Clifton Hill between Queen Victoria Park and Victoria Avenue.

    The property, a very popular entertainment and dining area on the Street of Fun, is owned by HOCO Ltd. As the company’s president Harry Oakes explained, part of the change will include an update of the building that houses both Ripley’s and Kelsey’s Restaurant. There will also be various new attractions and increased parking.

    The site of all this activity has a long history involving a number of prominent families from this city’s past, beginning with Philip George Bender, one of the very first settlers in what is now Niagara Falls, Ont.

    Major changes for Clifton Hill

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    From the Niagara Falls Review:

    Expect to see some multi-million dollar changes taking place near the top of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls.

    Older buildings like the Comfort Inn are slated for demolition, businesses like Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and Kelsey’s Restaurant are being renovated or expanded, and new interactive entertainment features are being added to the mix.

    “Once the Comfort Inn is removed we will have a four-acre site available and that’s going to be expansion for our Clifton Hill entertainment facilities,” said Harry Oakes, president of Hoco Limited, that owns and operates a number of attractions, restaurants and shops on the south side of the street.

    The Comfort Inn closed early last month, all the essential services were cut off on Monday, and large excavators were expected to be on site Wednesday or Thursday to begin taking down the building.

    “We are going to be busy this winter so we are just cranking up right now,” said Oakes. “It’s kind of the next phase in our multi-plan, master plan that we have for the whole site. The construction that is going to take place over the next several months is about 20,000-square feet of renovations and about 30,000-square feet of new buildings, along with extensive streetscape site work.”

    Keeping things fresh at HOCO

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    From the Niagara Falls Review:

    Strapped into articulating yellow chairs and wearing 3D glasses, riders on the new XD Theater ride on Clifton Hill don’t know what they’re in for.

    But as the lights dim and the massive screen in front of them comes to life, they’re suddenly aboard a futuristic roller coaster hurtling them around huge rocks, above bottomless pits and through lava-filled caverns.

    The adventure is the latest attraction inside the Great Canadian Midway on the south side of Clifton Hill. The buildings and businesses on that side of the street are owned by HOCO Entertainment and Resorts.

    The Oakes family has been around in Niagara Falls since the 1920s, when mining tycoon Sir Harry Oakes built and moved into what is now known as Oak Hall. Today, his grandsons Harry and Phillip Oakes run HOCO and its portfolio of tourism-related businesses.

    The brothers have long believed that to be successful, they must stay current.

    “Our basic business philosophy is you have to continually get better,” said Harry Oakes. “If you stand still, you get steamrolled. That continual improvement applies to any business – whether it’s tourism or manufacturing.”

    “Harry Oakes – The Early Years” video

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    If you’ve been to Niagara Falls more than once, you’ve probably noticed the name Oakes on a lot of things. There is Oakes Garden Theatre, Oakes Park, and more. These are all named after Sir Harry Oakes. He was a prospector who discovered gold in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, and then bought some property in Niagara Falls. At one point he swapped the parcel of land where Oakes Garden Theatre now stands with another parcel of land. The name lives on with HOCO Entertainment & Resorts (Harry Oakes COmpany).

    Anyway, yesterday I came across a video that the Museum of Northern History (housed in the Sir Harry Oakes Chateau) posted to YouTube. It is only a couple of minutes long, but talks a bit about Harry Oakes’ early years. You can see the video below, or on YouTube.

    ERNIE’S GOLD: A Prospector’s Tale – by Brian (Chip) Martin

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    This isn’t exactly about Niagara Falls, but it does relate to Harry Oakes, one of the key historical figures in Niagara Falls.

    From RepublicOfMining.com:

    In the early 1900s, young Ernie Martin immigrated from Staffordshire, England, to Canada to seek his fortune. He finally ended up in Kirkland Lake, where gold was to be found if you were willing to work at it. Ernie was. And so was Harry Oakes. The two of them became prospecting partners. Ernie and Harry worked hard and non-stop to find a vein of gold so they could start a mine.

    Tourism ‘flat’ in Falls


    From the Niagara Falls Review:

    It could be better. It could be worse.

    But with the peak season of tourism upon us, the general consensus among operators is business has been “mediocre” and “flat,” says Niagara Falls Tourism chairman Wayne Thomson.

    “Some of the properties are behind a little bit, or slightly ahead,” he said. “You certainly can’t get away from the U.S. visitors not coming. Everyone knows we have a problem in the U.S. with the economy and problems with respect to employment.”

    Thomson said Americans once made up about 65% of the visitors to Niagara Falls. He said it would be optimistic to think that figure is at 25% now.

    There are also a couple of good quotes from Tim Parker and Harry Oakes.

    I’m not privy to anyone’s sales numbers or guest counts, but based on the number of people I see around, I would have thought this year was up over last year.

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