Niagara Community center gets new name after $1 million gift from Ralph Wilson foundation

James Neiss/staff photographerThe Niagara Community Center building on the Niagara Catholic campus. It will soon bear the name of Ralph Wilson Jr. after a $1 million gift.

The Niagara Community Center will now be going by a new name. After a $1 million grant was awarded to the center, the facility will now bear the name of the late Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr.

The award will be devoted to the center's final construction phase and other organizational initiatives, according to Kailey Kolozsvary, a spokesmen for the group, who announced the honor on Thursday in a prepared statement.

The 66th Street center, which is about two years old and located behind Niagara Catholic High School, provides space for its program affiliates, including the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club, Niagara University and the Niagara Police Athletic League.

David Egner, the president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, said the year-round athletic facility has filled a "gap that previously existed for youth in Niagara Falls."

“Rooted in collaboration and strong community partnerships, this project presented us with a great opportunity to honor the legacy of Mr. Wilson, while advancing our goal of getting more kids from all backgrounds and skill levels active through sports," Egner said in the statement.

The initiative behind the facility – from now on called the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Niagara Community Center – was founded in 2013 by Gary Hall, a longtime area resident and successful businessman. Hall was a prime mover in the establishment of the 21,600 square-foot-multi-use indoor sports and education center.

Hall has called the space a "place kids can come and do the right things with the right supervision." It also provides a hub for a variety of collaborative partnerships with other local non-profits.

In Thursday's announcement, Hall said the organization was "truly grateful" for the support of the Wilson foundation

“Our organization is honored and humbled to bear the name of Mr. Wilson, as we strive to honor his legacy and his vision of strengthening young minds and bodies by helping children improve themselves through education and exercise, while offering a safe place for community youth to conduct positive activities after school," he said.

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