Tourism The Fundy Vortex was the top choice from those polled
SAINT JOHN - Tourists want truth in advertising and Reversing Falls just doesn't do it.
Dan Glenn of the Glenn Group calls Reversing Falls three parks in one, pointing to land accessed from Riverview Drive on the west side, the existing site beside the bridge and Fallsview Park, where the jet boats are located.
That's what consultants hired by the city to come up with a plan to turn Reversing Falls into a world-class tourist destination have found. They didn't go looking to change the name, but that's what people in Boston, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax suggested.
"I want you to think about every product in your cupboard at home," said Harvey Sawler, of the Glenn Group Ltd.
"For any successful product ... there is always a true and honest and powerful brand promise."
He and Dan Glenn gave a two-hour presentation to about 50 people at the New Brunswick Museum Tuesday. It was chock full of ideas to make the site a year-round attraction with an interpretation centre to rival things found at Disney's Epcot Center. But in the end their research has led them to believe the site needs a new name or brand.
The Fundy Vortex: A Geo Marine Wonder, was the top choice to come out of the focus groups in all four cities. Other choices closer to the current name were Fundy's Reversing Rapids: A Geo Marine Wonder or The Reversing Rapids: A Fundy Marine Wonder.
The consultants believe the site needs to tie itself to the Bay of Fundy, which has good name recognition in places like Boston and Montreal. People in the focus groups were confused about the use of the word "falls" as a name for the phenomena and local people who bring visitors to the site often have to explain it really isn't a falls, said Sawler.
The Glenn Group is still looking for public feedback and any major changes at Reversing Falls are still years away. In the new year, the first thing that might happen is development of some trails.
"We dared to dream a little big here tonight," said Bill MacMackin, president of the Saint John Waterfront Development Partnership.
Reversing Falls is no longer promoted by the provincial Department of Tourism because it is not seen as a site it wants to be associated with, but Glenn said if it is reworked it will be a major draw for the city and the province.
The plans call for developments in three areas.
"I call it three parks in one," he said, pointing to land accessed from Riverview Drive on the west side, the existing site beside the bridge and Fallsview Park, where the jet boats are located.
At the centre of the new proposal is an interpretation centre off Riverview Drive, with a view up the river under the existing bridge. It will have easy access from the Throughway through Prince Street on the west side.
They are proposing an 18,000 square foot building with exhibit spaces open to the public as well as an area where visitors will pay to experience a simulation of what is at the falls site, which includes a 70-metre underwater drop off.
"It's not a museum, it's an interactive interpretive centre," he said.
The simulation would include a theatre with a 10-metre screen with 20 to 40 seats on a platform that appears to be on top of the water, he said.
"You would see jet boats zinging by, a pilot boat and part of the architecture would be the bottom of the bridge," Glenn said. "And just as you're starting to figure out what's going on here the floor would start to drop, not like the Tower of Terror. As it gradually moves down it would start to unveil the height of the water and the falls."
Reversing Falls is not just a water event. The area is also a unique geological area where continents collided and scientists have discovered rock formations sandwiched together that at one time in the distant past were in Antarctica and Africa. That is another fact that will make it exciting for people to visit, Glenn said.
The plan calls for upgrading the new restaurant to handle more customers and tearing down the older building at the road side to turn it into a viewing platform with lights to enhance the water at night.
Across the bridge at Fallsview Park there would be an amphitheatre and zip rides from the cliff face down to the area beside the jet boat rides. People in the focus groups were very excited about that idea, he said.
The site also has enough land to build a sports field for use by Harbour View High School.
MacMackin conceded the proposal is a multimillion-dollar project that could take a number of years to achieve. It is not something the city could do on its own, but it is possible with help from a number of partners, including ACOA and the private sector.