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Record grant may lead to Lockport ice arena next fall

LOCKPORT - Lockport's Grigg-Lewis Foundation announced the largest gift in its history Tuesday, a $4 million donation that may clear the way for construction of a twin-rink ice arena complex in downtown Lockport within a year.
The Lockport Ice Arena and Sports Center is a private nonprofit project, despite the involvement of top city officials, including Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano as its president.
At a news conference Tuesday morning outside the foundation office, Ottaviano said the grant should make the funding "dominoes" fall into place to get the $14 million project rolling on the site of the former Jubilee supermarket on Chestnut Street.
"Any private lender wanted to see equity," said R. Charles Bell, city planning and development director.
Bell said that demolition of the old store could begin by the end of the year and that the new complex could be complete in 12 to 14 months, a timeline he acknowledged was "ambitious."
Ottaviano said the grant makes it possible to line up a $6.5 million bank loan and also clears the way for the sale of $3 million in federal tax credits to investors, in a deal set up through Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. and Waterbourne Construction of Getzville.
Bell said the tax credits are available because the census including downtown Lockport is considered economically depressed, based on the residents' low incomes. He said the arena will be leased to Firland Management of Lewiston, Maine, which will operate the facility. Firland submitted a business plan that said the rink will generate enough revenue to make the loan payments, he said.
The project already had been approved for a $400,000 state Dormitory Authority grant arranged by State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane.
Ottaviano said a fundraising campaign will soon begin with a goal of $500,000 to $1 million.
Lockport officials said the rink complex, which is to be open year-round, is expected to provide spinoff development, possibly including a downtown hotel.
A municipal parking lot already exists directly in front of the old supermarket. Additional parking for the arena is expected to be placed on the former Dussault Foundry site at the foot of Washburn Street, half a block from the store, which has been closed for more than a decade.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he believes the twin rinks, expected to host a steady stream of youth hockey games and tournaments will give the business district a shot in the arm.
"The facility," Tucker said, "will have a profound impact on our community."