Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — For the first – and probably not the last – time, there was cheering at 34 Chestnut St. on Tuesday afternoon. Community members, local officials, area hockey players and supporters gathered as an excavator tore the loading dock of the old building down.
That was the official start to the construction of the long awaited Lockport Ice Arena & Sports Center.
The $13 million, 93,500 square-foot project is a step closer to being a reality, with an expected opening slated for the fall of 2014. Demolition has begun on the current building, which over the years was a home to a Twin Fair, a Sears and a Jubilee supermarket.
The building has been vacant for over a decade. City Corp. Counsel John J. Ottaviano, who is also the president of the arena, said it took five years for the arena to reach this stage. A recession and a host of other financial obstacles often got in the way, he said.
“Looking back, we realized how easy it would have been to give up,” Ottaviano said. “But we were stubborn... this was one dream, one goal we would not give up on.”
The thought is that an ice arena would draw families to Lockport, particulary those with kids or youth who play hockey. Area ice hockey teams often struggle to find ice to play or practice on, as there are few such surfaces available. Officials project annual skater and spectator traffic to exceed 150,000 by 2015.
“This project is truly a game changer for our city,” said Mayor Michael Tucker.
John Koelmel, president of HarborCenter, the new ice arena and entertainment complex being built in downtown Buffalo, said both the HarborCenter and Lockport ice arena are signs that the area is making progress. Koelmel noted he had been in the Town of Lockport just a few days ago for the groundbreaking of Yahoo’s expansion.