The $20 million Western New York Welcome Center on Grand Island is under construction and expected to begin welcoming visitors in August, 2018.
"The fact that they have put in some major structures shows that its going to happen and its going to happen quicker than people thought," said Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray.
For the past few weeks, residents have been hearing trucks clearing the vacant state land at Alvin and Whitehaven roads. More recently, drivers on Interstate 190 have been able to look west and see the construction site work near the Whitehaven Road exit.
McMurray said the construction has started to get a bit quieter over the last few days as the clearing stops and workers begin to pour the foundation and move steel girders into place.
He said this is all being done by the state and the town is just "watching from the sidelines." He has been a cheerleader on the project and said he stops by to watch the progress on a regular basis.
McMurray said he saw the state's welcome center on Long Island, which opened last year, and reached out to Sam Hoyt, regional president at Empire State Development, to say - "We want one here." He praised Hoyt for his work on behalf of Grand Island to make that happen.
The Western New York Welcome Center received funding as part of Phase II of the Buffalo Billion and construction work got started a few months ago after the Town of Grand Island approved the state environmental quality review (SEQR) and made the state the lead agency on the project.
"We are just waiting for it to be done," said McMurray. "It is expected to be completed by spring or early summer."
The $20 million dollar center will serve as a welcoming hub for all of Western New York, featuring an "I Love New York" exhibit for visitors to learn more about the region's history and tourism destinations. Regional artifacts, videos and touch screen kiosks will educate travelers and provide information on suggested destinations.
The interactive site will allow visitors to create a map based on their interests, from parks and wineries to historical sites and local events, and then create an itinerary that they can take with them via email.
McMurray said Grand Island is an ideal location for the Western New York Welcome Center.
"It's a natural connector - a keystone between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and its been that way forever. It's the same reason they put the highway here. To have (the welcome center) here makes logical sense," said McMurray.
But McMurray said he hopes the welcome center will tell the story of Grand Island's natural beauty and the hiking, camping and waterfront recreation available in the town.