Comment 86357

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:19:47

August 2006:

Gabe Macaluso, manager of operations for Cirque Niagara and president of CEG Entertainment Group... said Cirque Niagara came together after 20 Beslan survivors visited Niagara Falls last year. Partners of the spectacular show met the Kantemirov family while the survivors enjoyed their stay. The family is renowned for its circus performances, helping build Cirque Du Soleil. Kantemirov's uncle Mairbek helped create Cirque Niagara Avaia.

October 2007:

Hamilton businessman Peter Mercanti was instrumental in bringing Niagara Falls its own Cirque du Soleil-style show. He flew in the entire production, from props to the horse ring to the actual performers, from Russia.

Mercanti, owner of Carmen's Banquet and Entertainment Centre, is also a major investor. His partners in the venture were Tony Battaglia and Gabe Macaluso.

Battaglia, chairperson of Tradeport International Corporation -- which operates Hamilton's airport -- helped attract 28 other investors, including Michael Burgess, who performed in Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.

"It was a spectacular show. We were just in the wrong market," said Macaluso, the company's vice-president of tour development yesterday.

December 2011:

With ties to Russia's famed Kantemirov circus family, Cirque Niagara was a visually stacked show mixing acrobats and rare Russian horses. Operating out of a $1.3 million tent set up at Rapidsview Park, across from Marineland, it sold about 170,000 tickets its first season.

The following year, performers arrived in Canada early to perform the show in April at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack, but because they only had temporary visas, they were unable to stay for the full duration of the summer in Niagara Falls. Offering the same show as the previous year, Avaia, may have also been a factor in declining ticket sales. The company closed two weeks early.

"We've got a lot of overhead, and revenues were not what we expected this year," said Jana Ray, the company's director of sales and marketing at the time.

A few weeks later, the company filed for bankruptcy, citing assets of $490,000 and liabilities of $6.7 million.

Among the creditors was Gabe Macaluso, the former head of Hamilton's Copps Coliseum who in 2007 received an out-of-court settlement from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. for a lawsuit in which he claimed he was allowed back into Casino Niagara despite a heavy gambling addiction.

His claim for Cirque Niagara losses was $191,136. Hamilton-based insurance brokers John Mitchell and Wayne Abbott had a claim for nearly $650,000, while the Niagara Parks Commission - with whom Cirque Niagara entered into a 10-year agreement for use of Rapidsview Park - had a claim of $416,046.

Former Cirque Niagara president and CEO Peter Mercanti did not return messages left by The Review. Mercanti operates the popular Carmen's Banquet Centre in Hamilton with his two sons.

Even in 2006, Mercanti said the show needed a permanent home, not a tent on rented property: "We love the location, but we want to be down to where the Falls fall."

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