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Schumer Personally Called Commerce Secretary Raimondo To Advocate For The Award To Strengthen Rochester’s Tourism Economy & Boost Their Economic Recovery

Schumer Created EDA Tourism Grant In American Rescue Plan With Projects Like The Strong’s in Mind; New Funding Builds On The $16.5M The Senator Secured In 2013 To Fill Rochester Inner Loop East, Allowing For The Strong Museum’s Massive Expansion

Schumer: EDA Investment In Rochester’s Strong Museum Is A Win-Win-Win, Generating Millions In New Tourism Revenue, Creating Jobs, & Strengthening Local Economy

Following his direct advocacy for Rochester, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that Rochester’s Strong National Museum of Play has been awarded a $7.5 million grant through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) American Rescue Plan (ARP) Competitive Tourism program. Schumer said that this grant is the final piece of the puzzle in a massive expansion to create the Neighborhood of Play, a new home for the World Video Game Hall of Fame, a Digital Gaming Hub, and much more. In March, Schumer personally called Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to advocate for Strong’s grant application and said that this new federal funding will now create over 120 new jobs, nearly double attendance at the museum, and is expected to generate over $160 million in annual tourism revenue for the Finger Lakes region.  

“Rochester’s downtown economic revitalization just got a lot stronger thanks to this major boost from the federal government. The Strong National Museum of Play is an economic anchor, and this $7.5 million investment is the final piece of the puzzle to complete its expansion creating hundreds of new good paying jobs, producing over $160 million annually in new tourism revenue, and attracting visitors from across the globe to our downtown shops and businesses,” said Senator Schumer.  “When I included this tourism grant program in the American Rescue Plan, I had in mind innovative projects like Rochester’s Strong Museum, which is why I called Secretary Raimondo personally to secure this funding for a new vibrant community space for all to enjoy. This project is truly transformational, and the future of Rochester’s downtown never looked stronger.” 

“The Strong’s expansion and Neighborhood of Play project will nearly double the museum’s attendance to roughly one million, bringing hundreds of thousands of additional guests from outside the Finger Lakes Region each year. We are proud that despite enduring a global pandemic, we are going to be able to accomplish the project as originally envisioned with the Inner Loop Redevelopment in 2015,” said Steve Dubnik, President & CEO of The Strong National Museum of Play. “Senator Schumer’s successful advocacy with the Economic Development Administration and the Department of Commerce means that we will bring this essential project for Downtown Rochester to fruition. We thank the Senator for his continued push for Rochester and for The Strong National Museum of Play and for securing these essential American Rescue Plan funds for this transformative project.”

Schumer said this $7.5 million EDA grant will unlock the true economic development potential in Rochester’s downtown neighborhoods and provide the critical funding needed for the construction of the Final Phase of the museum’s expansion. Specifically, the EDA grant will help fund Phase 2 of the museum’s expansion, which includes construction of the Digital Worlds Exhibit, Outdoor Plaza & Commons, and Outdoor Play Exhibit.  With this expansion, The Strong’s attendance is expected to nearly double from 600,000 to close to 1,000,000, making it one of the most highly attended museums in the country and attracting visitors to downtown Rochester from all over the world. The grant is necessary for critical components of the project that will serve as conduits between the Museum and the surrounding Rochester neighborhood. The EDA investment would serve as a vital infusion of funds to finish this project and bring people and economic activity back to downtown Rochester, quickly reigniting the city’s downtown and the local economy as we emerge from the pandemic. The Strong’s expansion is the catalyst behind the creation of the new larger Neighborhood of Play, a transformational, urban development that is reinvigorating downtown Rochester while driving broader economic development.

Schumer explained that the tourism grant program Strong has received funding through is part of a $750 million set-aside to support the travel, tourism, and the outdoor recreation economy that he secured as part of the American Rescue Plan’s $3 billion for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This funding also builds on the tremendous pandemic relief Senator Schumer has delivered for live music, museums and culture venues across New York, including over $28 million in the Finger Lakes. The Strong Museum also received over $2.2 million in 2021 from the Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venues Operator Grant (SVOG), a program that Schumer led the creation of in order to provide critical federal relief to cultural institutions like Strong to help them survive and recover from the pandemic.

The Strong’s expansion is made possible because of Schumer’s long-standing efforts to deliver federal funding to fill in Rochester’s Inner Loop. In 2013, after in-person appeals to both Secretaries of Transportation LaHood and Foxx, Schumer successfully secured a $16.5M TIGER grant to fill in the Inner Loop. Filling in the Inner Loop removed a huge barrier that had stunted investment for decades, and has now allowed the Strong Museum to pursue its current $70 million expansion in downtown Rochester.

A copy of Schumer’s original letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo appears below:

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by The Strong National Museum of Play to the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) American Rescue Plan grant program.

With funding, the Strong National Museum of Play will complete the final phase of a 90,000-SF expansion, the anchor and catalyst of a transformational urban development and tourism destination, the Neighborhood of Play (NoP)—specifically, the investment will fund a suite of dynamic new exhibits and an expansive plaza and commons area. Together, these components will attract and welcome hundreds of thousands of new tourists each year from across the nation and around the globe.

Prior to the expansion, The Strong’s marketing and advertising was limited to the NY Finger Lakes region. Despite that limited radius, the museum attracted 30% of its annual attendance (nearly 600,000 in 2019) from outside the region. Extensive market research conducted in 2015 and reconfirmed in 2021 showed that by expanding marketing efforts to metropolitan areas within a four-hour drive time (such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Toronto) The Strong’s expansion will draw an additional 400,000 people from outside the region to Rochester, bringing annual attendance close to one million within three years—driving major, sustainable economic development.

I applaud The Strong National Museum of Play for their foresight and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.