4 minute read

Skylon on the Skyline

By Martine Mackenzie

“For anyone coming to Niagara Falls, the number one thing to see is obviously the Falls. The view from Table Rock at the brink is a fantastic and emotional experience. After that, it’s on Niagara City Cruises, the boat ride up to the Falls, and of course, from the Skylon Tower.” George Yerich Jr., General Manager of the Skylon Tower.

Construction began on the famed tower in May of 1964, with its official opening on October 6, 1965. The cost to build it at the time was a whopping 7 million dollars! It’s fair to say that for 58 years now, the Skylon Tower has been the one constant of Niagara’s skyline which now counts other towering structures such as hotels and the Fallsview Casino. Over the course of the years, the tower has had several owners, mostly large corporations, that is until 1986 when two local Niagara hotel owners, John Gruyich of Michael’s Inn and George Yerich Sr. of the Holiday Inn By The Falls Motel purchased it from Canadian Pacific Hotels. In 1988, George Yerich Sr. bought out John Gruyich’s ownership share of the Skylon.

At the helm today is George Yerich Jr., General Manager, who oversees the operation.

While there has been considerable redevelopment in the surrounding city, the Skylon Tower complex still retains much of its look and feel from the 1970s and 1980s. Standing at 160 metres (520 feet) from street level and 236 metres (775 feet) from the base of the gorge, the tower features three outside-mounted “Yellow Bug” elevators that carry passengers to the top of the tower in 52 seconds, all the while giving a great view of the landscape below, including the mighty cataracts.

The tower has two restaurants at its top, the Revolving Dining Room and the upper Summit Suite Buffet. The Revolving Dining Room revolves once every hour, providing guests with a panoramic view while they are enjoying some of the finest dining Niagara has to offer. Along with a tantalizing menu of delicacies paired with fine Niagara wines, guests are entertained by the Skylon’s very own Piano Man, Doug Bates, who contributes to the overall dining experience with his tickling of the ivories. Doug plays 6 nights a week and has done so for the last 32 years. As a classically trained pianist, Doug has played with bands taking him all over the world, but he has called the Skylon home for the last 3 decades. His repertoire includes all of the classics, jazz, blues and he’s always happy to take requests.

Up a level, the Summit Suite Buffet will be reopening for dinner service this season. “We’re very excited to be reopening the buffet post-Covid. It’s very popular with the tour groups we receive,” adds Mr. Yerich.

An observation deck sits at the tower’s summit with both indoor and outdoor platforms. The base of the tower features a number of gift shops, fast food restaurants and a large amusement arcade.

When asked what’s new on the horizon at the Skylon Tower, George Yerich became a little thoughtful and gave ever the slightest tease as to what to expect. “Well, we’re finding that the Arcade Level isn’t as popular as it used to be. Children have so many home-based options and video games that travel with them on their devices. I can’t divulge too much right now, but I can say that we have something very cutting edge that will be replacing the arcade – a mediabased attraction is coming.” skylon.com at any given moment you’re sure to find the perfect one

From the top visitors will be wowed by views of the Great Gorge, the Niagara wine district, and the city skylines of Buffalo, New York, and Toronto. On a clear day, visibility from the observatory is up to 125 kilometres (80 miles). It’s definitely worth the trip up!