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Schumer Delivered $16.5M In 2013 To Fill Rochester Inner Loop East, And Now Thanks To His Advocacy Strong Museum Is Able To Begin Massive Expansion

Schumer Created EDA Tourism Grant In American Rescue Plan To Help Hard-Hit Communities Like Rochester Bolster Their Tourism Economy & Boost Their Economic Recovery

Schumer To EDA: Investing In Rochester’s Strong Museum Is A Win-Win-Win:  Bringing in $130M in Annual Tourism Dollars, Creating Jobs, Strengthening Local Economy

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer recently made a personal push with Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to approve Rochester’s Strong National Museum of Play’s application for a $7.5 million grant through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) American Rescue Plan (ARP) Competitive Tourism program. Schumer said that this grant would be 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. Schumer said investing in the project would be a tremendous boon for Rochester, creating 150 new jobs, nearly doubling attendance at the museum, boosting regional tourism, creating a new mixed-used Neighborhood of Play that will generate $130 million in annual tourism revenue, and accelerating the greater Rochester area’s economic recovery.

“Rochester’s Strong National Museum of Play is an economic anchor downtown, and its expansion will lead to hundreds of new jobs, bring in over $130 million annually in new tourism revenue, and attract 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 not only expand attractions and bring new economic growth, but invest in the community by creating a vibrant space that will anchor the new Neighborhood of Play for all to enjoy. That is why I personally wrote and called Commerce Secretary Raimondo directly to say if we want to strengthen Rochester’s economic recovery, then it’s time to invest in the Strong.”

“We are immensely grateful to the EDA and United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his continued and tireless work in securing funding for The Strong National Museum of Play’s expansion and the development of the Neighborhood of Play,” said Steve Dubnik, President & CEO of The Strong. “These funds will support the creation of world-class exhibits focused on digital gaming in the museum’s expansion, as well as a playful outdoor plaza space at the heart of the larger neighborhood. This transformative project will be a major economic driver for the region, a boon to tourism in Downtown Rochester, and allow us to return from the pandemic even stronger than we were before.”

Schumer said the EDA grant will unlock the true economic development potential in these 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 to the Museum and the surrounding Rochester neighborhood. The EDA investment would serve as a vital infusion of funds to finish this project and to 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.

The Strong’s expansion is also 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.

Schumer explained that the grant program Strong is applying to is part of a $750 million set-aside to support the travel, tourism, and the outdoor recreation economy Schumer secured as part of the American Rescue Plan’s $3 billion for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This $750 million was broken into two programs; a State Tourism Grant that has already awarded New York close to $45 million in a non-competitive, direct state allocation to support investments in travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation across the state, and a Competitive Grant program that Strong is now applying for. 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.

A copy of Schumer’s 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.