Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 3, 2013

Arena groundbreak date set

By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

A Lockport Ice Arena & Sports Complex groundbreaking-demolition ceremony will be held Oct. 29.

LIASC committee chairman John Ottaviano announced the ceremony Thursday. Members of the public are invited to attend and help make a "big splash"as the long anticipated development project is kicked off, he said. Area youth hockey teams and possibly some Kenan Center hockey alumni are being recruited to help whoop it up.

Lockport Ice Arena as planned will have two ice pads and include retail, office and restaurant space. The 81,000 square-foot, two-level facility is to be constructed at 34 Chestnut St., where demolition of the existing Sears building, which last housed a supermarket, will begin in November.

Although demolition will start three months later than was originally planned, the committee is still aiming for a September 2014 arena opening, coinciding with the start of the youth hockey season, said committee member R. Charles Bell, director of planning and development for the City of Lockport.

"We're still hopeful to get the doors open next fall. It's a tight schedule," he said.

Arena development is a roughly $11 million proposition. The committee still has not yet lined up all of the financing, but it 's going ahead with demolition after the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council last month named LIASC one of 16 "priority" projects for the five-county region and recommended $2 million in state funding for it.

The WNY council is competing with nine other regional councils across the state for five $25 million awards to underwrite priority projects in the third round of the Consolidated Funding Application process. Award announcements are expected in December.

In the meantime, the regional council's endorsement of LIASC "is an unbelievable stamp of approval as we're talking to other funding sources," Bell said. "It's why we're going ahead. We're confident that (remaining) funding will fall into place."

Demolition of the Sears building will be financed from a $4 million grant to LIASC by the Grigg-Lewis Foundation last year. The foundation board supported the committee's choice to start construction without full funding, Bell said. Supporters are in agreement that the project, first pitched to the community six years ago, won't be "real" for some people until they can see and feel it.

Thus demolition "is clearing a mental and emotional hurdle as well," Bell said.

Supporters who've been sent an invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony include John Koelmel, president of HarborCenter, the ice arena-hotel development that's being raised in downtown Buffalo and financed by Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

According to Ottaviano, LIASC and HarborCenter principals are talking over possibilities for cross-promotion of their facilities.

"Our common goal is to make the region, not just Buffalo or Lockport, but Western New York, a hockey destination," he said.