By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — With planning for the Lewiston Civic Center – formerly the Lewiston Recreation and Senior Center – moving forward, supporters from the community and those surrounding it are starting to put their money where their mouth is.
Several trade unions sent representation to Monday's town board meeting to voice support for the project, which carries a modified price tag reduced to $8 million, and its prospects of creating jobs for local construction and trade employees.
Then there was the local sports organizations, the ones who'll benefit the most from the project's completion. From the Lewiston-Porter varsity lacrosse team to the Niagara Pioneer Soccer League, there appears to be a large amount of support. The NPSL, though, is willing to spend a lot of money to make the building a reality.
"Niagara Pioneer Soccer's board voted to purchase $30,000 worth of soccer equipment for the building," William Westadt, a member of the organization's board of directors, said. "And on top of that, we also give $25,000 to $30,000 annually to the other facilities in the area. We've voted to take that money and give it to you guys from now on."
The project also received strong support verbally from the college level. Two of Niagara University's basketball coaches – current bench boss Joe Mihalich and his predecessor, Jack Armstrong – came to the meeting to support the big project, recognizing the facility as a place for the entire community.
NPSL's financial support was applauded by the standing-room-only audience twice, including after a vocal resident and former town board member Paulette Glasgow stepped up to the microphone and commended the organization for backing the project.
She said projects like this should be funded privately before applauding the action.
Glasgow, who has spoken critically of the project's inclusion of a senior citizen center in the past, also reiterated her position.
"The seniors need their own facility fixed," she said. "No one will dispute the need this facility meets. No one will dispute that this facility is necessary. But scale it down."
While the project won't be scaled down size-wise, Supervisor Steve Reiter said the portion containing the senior citizens center, complete with meeting rooms, a kitchen and computer work stations, is no longer being considered for the civic center project.
Reiter said the current center, located on Lower River Road, will receive its needed renovations, which would take more than $1 million off the original price tag for the new project.
"So in one swipe of the pen, we scaled down the project and we're giving the seniors what they want, keeping them in the same facility," Reiter said. "But I think as they come to the civic center and see what's there, they may change their minds."