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New dining hall coming at air station

Troops at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will soon have a new place to chow down.

Officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the base Monday morning for a $9.8 million dining hall and activities center.

The 19,870-square-foot facility will be able to serve about 500 diners at a time and will be used by both the units at the base -- the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing and the Air Force Reserve's 914th Airlift Wing.

"This is not just another building," said the 914th's Col. Timothy McCoy. "This is going to represent for us how the Reserve and the Guard forces are going to work together and train together in the future."

It will replace the existing dining facility, which is next to the site of the new building; the old site will be torn down once the new building is constructed.

The Falcon Club, a restaurant and bar on the base open to enlisted personnel and officers, will also be moved to the new center. The old club building will be used as a conference center, said Sgt. Peter J. Borys, public affairs officer with the 914th.

In addition to meal service, the new facility also will be used for promotion and retirement ceremonies, and other large meetings.

The joint use of a newly constructed building will be a first of its kind in the Air Force, said Robert T. Williams, chief of services for the 914th.

"It will stand as the model for the United States Air Force and the Reserve," Williams said.

The project represents a slice of more than $70 million in projects funded at the base since 2006.

Scrufari Construction of Niagara Falls is the contractor for the project. Beardsley Design Associates of Syracuse designed the facility. The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the project out of its New York and Louisville district offices. Funding for the project was first passed by the House as part of a $630 billion spending bill in September 2008.

Construction is expected to begin in the coming days and be completed by August of next year.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, a leading figure in the effort to save the Falls base when the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission wanted to close it in 2005, was one of several elected leaders who attended Monday's groundbreaking.

"I'm always proud of the continuing investments that we bring here to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station," Slaughter said. "We're well on our way to becoming an indispensable base within the armed services, and that is so important with a new [Base Closing Commission] facing us very shortly."

Other elected officials in attendance included Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence; Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield; and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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