Even two high-powered propane heaters couldn't warm up the long-closed, historic Frontier House on a frigid Thursday afternoon, but the warmth of Lewiston leaders filled the room as they rallied to bring a Niagara County Community College Culinary Arts Institute to the Center Street site.
Lewiston Mayor Richard F. Soluri received loud applause when he said, "Niagara Falls is good, but we know Lewiston is the best site for this institute. We have a beautiful village and great people here."
The Frontier House is competing with two sites near the Seneca Niagara Casino in downtown Niagara Falls for the proposed institute.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, called the use of Frontier House a "no-brainer."
"There's people down here, going out to dinner, enjoying things like Artpark," he said. "The concept is to have a learning experience for students, an operating establishment. With amenities like Artpark and the new golf course, you are going to have opportunities for these students to get jobs."
In a jab at the competition, Maziarz added, "You have to be where people go. I hate to make any negative comparison, but take a ride down Main Street in Niagara Falls and then Main Street in Lewiston. Take a ride and make your own conclusions."
Soluri also pointed out other Lewiston attractions like the Whirlpool Jet Boat and world-class sport fishing, as well as 50 festivals and events. "Twelve months a year people are on our streets," said Soluri.
"People come to Lewiston because there's so many great restaurants. We have a fine culinary tradition. What a natural fit the Culinary Arts Institute would be for Lewiston," said Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin.
Soluri noted that the institute could have 30 educators and as many as 700 students throughout the course of the year.
The nearly 75 community members who came to support the project were given sample letters and the addresses of college trustees and NCCC President James Klyczek in order to show the support the Culinary Arts Institute has in Lewiston.
Niagara County Legislator John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, said to those who gathered, "What a great turnout. That's why this area is so successful. You are the ones that will support this institution that hopefully we will get here."
Robert Sdao, vice chairman of the NCCC board and a Lewiston resident, said he attended to personally support Lewiston. But, he said, the college's board still hasn't officially decided whether to go ahead with the institute.
Frontier House owner Richard Hastings called the plan a "win-win-win situation."
"The support is fantastic. It's use that we can all agree on, and it has brought all the parties together. Lewiston is the culinary center of Niagara County and this would just enhance it," he said.