Gateway Harbor to go Wireless

Assembly grants to promote Twin Cities’ canal and downtown development
January 27, 2006

Tonawandas Gateway Harbor Park and the adjacent downtown Tonawanda and North Tonawanda business districts will soon become one of Western New York’s free "Wi-Fi" Internet zones thanks to state funding provided by Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.

"Visitors to Gateway Harbor Park and residents, shoppers and business people on Webster Street in North Tonawanda and on Main Street in Tonawanda will be able to ‘surf the Net’ with wireless Web-enabled laptops and handhelds," said Assemblyman Schimminger. "And boaters who tie up in Gateway Harbor and other visitors to our Erie Canal waterfront will be able to log onto a Gateway Harbor Park home page and see what attractions and events the Twin Cities have to offer."

Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, computer networking technology allows individuals to use computers and other devices to send and receive Internet data via a wireless network. A number of business districts, tourism destinations and even retail establishments, like coffee shops, restaurants, computer/technology stores and shopping malls, have installed wireless networks with free access points so individuals with Wi-Fi-capable laptop computers or PDAs can connect to the Internet wirelessly while at these locations. Schimminger’s $4,600 state legislative grant paid for acquiring and installing the needed antennae and related equipment. The Wi-Fi service should be up and running once the equipment is in place within the next month or so.

Schimminger was approached last summer by BuffaloWiFi, an initiative of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, InfoTech Niagara, and the Verizon Foundation which provides free wireless Internet access in public spaces in the Buffalo Niagara region, about expanding Wi-Fi to the Tonawandas. The Assemblyman then reached out to the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas to ensure that development efforts involving Gateway Harbor Park and the cities’ downtown business districts would benefit from the innovative service.

The Wi-Fi Hot Zone, which is being sponsored and hosted by Wizard Communication Systems of Tonawanda, will convey information on events and attractions at Gateway Harbor Park and elsewhere in the Twin Cities. Plans also call for it to include links to Web sites for the Chamber of Commerce, the City of North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda. Area businesses and organizations can purchase advertising space on the site, as well. Equipment and installation is being supplied by Thinwires and Escape Wire Solutions.

Current locations include the Buffalo Zoo, City Hall/Niagara Square, the Erie Basin Marina, Lafayette Square and the Theatre District in Buffalo and the Lancaster downtown business district. Other area locations soon to come on line include business districts in Hamburg, Niagara Falls, Lewiston, Wilson and Youngstown. "The Tonawandas will be part of a regional network of Wi-Fi hot spots that visitors and local residents alike can tap into for information on events and attractions," said Schimminger.

"The Tonawandas Gateway Harbor Park Wi-Fi Hot Zone will make the Internet more accessible to the Tonawandas and the Harbor a tech-friendly place to hang out," said Les Hoffman, Director of Technology at the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

"This is a great opportunity for the downtown business districts of the Tonawandas and for the boaters and recreational users at Gateway Harbor Park. This allows the Tonawanda area to take a huge leap into the Age of Wireless Technology," said Jim Weber, President of Weber Communication Systems, Inc.

Schimminger also announced that he has directed an $8,250 legislative grant to the Chamber of Commerce for printing additional Tonawandas Gateway promotional brochures.

"With the increased popularity and use of Gateway Harbor, it’s critical that the Chamber’s Tourism Committee has the ability to promote tourism-related attractions and businesses in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda," said Schimminger. "This grant will allow another 100,000 updated copies of this pocket guide to attractions and events in the Twin Cities to be produced and then distributed over the next few years throughout the region."

"The Chamber would like to thank Assemblyman Schimminger for taking the initiative to help with promoting our Gateway Harbor. We envision the Wi-Fi Hot Zone will attract tremendous use and fulfill a significant demand by the boaters and others who visit Gateway Park. The new brochure will also allow us to update the Tonawandas image and present new attractions and services, such as the Wi-Fi Hot Zone and our Gateway Harbor concert schedules," said Kurt Alverson, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas.