$4M Grant Aids Lockport Ice Rink Project

September 26, 2012 Updated Sep 26, 2012 at 7:21 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Tracey Drury

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September 26, 2012 Updated Sep 26, 2012 at 7:21 AM EDT

LOCKPORT, NY (WKBW) - A new $4 million grant from the Grigg-Lewis Foundation will provide seed money for a new, twin-pad ice arena in Lockport.

The grant supports the creation of the $14 million Lockport Ice Arena & Sports Center Inc., an 84,000-square-foot facility planned for 34 Chestnut St. in the City of Lockport.

The grant is the largest ever awarded in the foundation's 10-year history. William "Ben" May, executive director, said the project fits well with the areas the foundation has supported.

"We just feel that it will do more for Lockport than anything we can possibly do, not only for the youth of Lockport, but for just a stimulus to the central area, which has been pretty sad," he said.

In addition to two sheets of ice and seating areas, the facility will house a pro shop, performance training center and restaurant, as well as additional tenant opportunities.

Additional funding comes in the form of $2 million in bonding from the City of Lockport. According to a press release from the city, the business plan calls for creating a recreational hub while serving as an economic stimulator: The facility will be positioned to bring multiple hockey tournaments to the city.

Lockport Ice Arena & Sports Center Inc., a nonprofit group, will own and operate the facility. Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. has been tapped as construction manager for the project. The foundation also provided a $350,000 bridge loan to the corporation to acquire the Sears building site, which most recently housed a Jubilee market.

May said the Grigg-Lewis Foundation had been working for about eight years to advance the idea of building an ice rink. Ultimately the foundation decided that providing the funding was the best option rather than leading the project.

That decision came after lots of discussion and visits to Jamestown, where the Gebbie Foundation opened a twin-page ice rink 10 years ago in partnership with the City of Jamestown and Cattaraugus County.

In that case, Gebbie worked with two other foundations and corporate groups to fund the $20 million Jamestown Savings Bank Arena. May said leaders at Gebbie shared the ups and downs of the project.

"We joined forces with Ciminelli, and so with their help we've been able to push forward on it," he said. "They have built other rinks so they bring to the table some experience which Jamestown did not do, and got into a lot of difficulties."

The nonprofit corporation was formed in 2009 and is led by John Ottaviano, corporation counsel to the City of Lockport and general counsel to the Greater Lockport Development Corp. Ottaviano is an attorney with the Lockport office of Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham & Coppola LLC.

In a media release, Ottaviano said many groups expressed interest in the project, but were reluctant to provide the initial funding necessary to get the project going.

"This commitment by the Grigg Lewis Foundation is the key domino that will allow us to secure a blend of private financing, tax credits, energy incentives, and community pledges to complete the project," he said.

Chuck Bell, a board member with the corporation and director of planning and development with the City of Lockport, said additional funding will come through bank financing and tax credits. The organization is also launching a capital campaign to raise the final $500,000 needed.

Bell said an aggressive timetable calls for demolishing the former supermarket, beginning construction in the spring and opening by next winter.

"We think it's going to be transformational," he said.

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