Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 3, 2012

OUR VIEW: Arena funding is a big step forward

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For the first time in more than 25 years, a puck may soon be dropped in a Lockport ice arena, and that first faceoff could be the signal of a spike in the local economy and local morale.

There’s still money to be raised by the non-profit Lockport Ice Arena & Sports Complex, but they received an incredible push forward with a $4 million promise from the Grigg-Lewis Foundation, the largest gift ever allocated by the charitable group. Where would Lockport be without them?

This one contribution is expected to be the linchpin to making the dream of a new arena a reality. It will likely free up nearly $10 million in other commitments. And a public capital campaign that’s planned to be launched could bring upwards of another $1 million.

That’s some serious cash, and the finished product should, over the years, return 100-fold what’s invested into the arena. It will attract local and out-of-town dollars; a nice blend of public benefit and tourism.

The building will be a wonderful addition for the area’s youth and adults alike. It will host events that cater to families and will offer new programs for youths who never seem to have enough to do. It will be a boost to the area’s quality of life.

Advocates are spot-on when they point to additional economic development. More customer traffic for restaurants and bars is the most obvious. Hockey tournaments are a known commodity and attracts outside customers; families who will visit for the weekend, shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, staying at local hotels.

The building will be more than just a hockey rink. It could be used for conventions, fundraisers and other functions; eastern Niagara County misses out on events that are hosted in Niagara Falls simply because there is no facility large enough to cater an event that attracts 400 or more people.

In Chautauqua County, the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena has hosted professional wrestling and concerts, is home to a skating club that hosts national tournaments, is home to a junior hockey team and is the site of several recreational activities. The building is used year-round, and other businesses have either benefited from — or have opened near — it.

Make no mistake about this: The arena is not a “magic bullet” that will solve the ailing local economy. However, it will certainly be worth the wait.

Congratulations to everyone involved — and a big tip of the cap to the Grigg-Lewis Foundation. We can’t wait to see the result.