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The interior of the landmark St. Vincent's Hall on the Niagara University campus will be rebuilt to accommodate an enlarged program of instruction for the hospitality industry, and the university's ice arena will be expanded, all at a total cost of $11 million, it was announced Wednesday.

The Rev. Richard J. Devine, acting president of the university, said the projects would begin during the coming year. Father Devine said the projects already have been approved by Niagara's board of trustees.

Efforts to develop the Institute of Travel, Hotel and Restaurant Administration into a nationally recognized training center will be a focal point of the renovation of St. Vincent's Hall, an imposing four-story masonry structure built in 1905.

The $8 million building renovation is scheduled to begin in May, and to be finished the following January. The inside of the building is to be torn out, and it is to be transformed into a state-of-the-art classroom to provide a modern home for the Institute of Travel, according to Father Devine.

The institute will be showcased on the top floor of the building, which will have a lobby and reception area modeled after public space in a first-class hotel. A key addition will be a teaching kitchen and dining room, which will feature a view of the Niagara River gorge.

The dining room also could double as a classroom.

"These modern facilities will enable the institute to achieve high visibility on campus and appropriately reflect its status as a premier hospitality management program," Father Devine said.

The addition of the kitchen and dining room will enable Niagara to begin a degree concentration program in food production and culinary arts.

Besides expanding its hospitality training program on the Lewiston campus, Father Devine said Niagara plans to establish a site in Buffalo and to seek a partnership with institutions there to offer a variety of programs.

"The Buffalo area is under-served to meet the needs of the industry and working adults," Father Devine said.

Niagara's Institute of Travel, Hotel and Restaurant Administration was founded in 1968. It offers degrees in travel and tourism administration and in hotel and restaurant administration to prepare students for careers in the hospitality industry.

In addition to the $8 million cost of renovations at St. Vincent's Hall, the improvements planned for the hospitality program will cost an estimated $2 million, to be funded through a combination of philanthropic gifts and university resources.

In a separate project, work on a $1 million expansion of the Dwyer Ice Arena is scheduled to begin in April and to be finished by mid-August.

The lobby area of the arena will be expanded to provide additional space for the concession stand and eating area, the pro shop, ticket office and administrative offices. The work will result in the closing of the main rink for about six weeks, but the auxiliary rink will remain open.

Last month, the university finished a separate $1 million expansion that included the addition of locker rooms and rooms for training, conditioning and equipment.

The physical renovation and expansion projects at St. Vincent's Hall and at the ice arena will be paid for with money raised through the university's capital fund drive called "Together, Tomorrow, Niagara!"

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