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Lockport rink complex wins first of three needed approvals

LOCKPORT – The city Zoning Board of Appeals approved four variances Tuesday that are needed for Lockport’s new $10 million twin-rink ice arena.

Approvals from the city and Niagara County planning boards are still necessary before the project can go ahead, said R. Charles Bell, city director of planning and development.

The rink complex, to be erected on the site of the former Jubilee supermarket at Chestnut and Market streets, is not officially a city project, but Bell and Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano are prime movers in the project, to be owned by a not-for-profit corporation.

Ottaviano said the cost has been cut from $14 million by revising designs to save money. Financing is to come from the sale of federal tax credits to investors, a $4 million Grigg-Lewis Foundation grant, a bank loan and perhaps public fundraising.

Bell said he hopes demolition can begin shortly after the final show in the Friday night concert series, slated for Aug. 16. The rink site is opposite the Chestnut Street municipal parking lot being used as the concert venue.

That lot is being targeted to handle overflow from the parking lots on the rink parcel, architect Jim Bammel of Orchard Park said. He presented the project to the Zoning Board along with Kristin Savard of Lewiston’s Advanced Design Group.

The plans call for 92 on-site parking spaces, but Bammel estimated about 160 would be needed at the rink’s busiest times. The Zoning Board granted a variance to let the number of on-site parking spots go as low as 82.

Savard said the wiggle room was needed in case one of the planning boards wants more green space or other alterations to the plan.

Savard said that according to the city code for a building with a 75,000-square-foot surface area, 334 parking spaces and 16,000 square feet of landscaping would have been required. The Zoning Board allowed the project a little more than 1,000 square feet of greenery.

“I don’t think we need any landscaping,” said Douglas Hammond, owner of the Warehouse, a gift store at 60 Chestnut St. He was more concerned about his business, next door to the rink, losing its on-street parking and its access to a driveway to the rear of the lot.

As for the rinks, Hammond said, “I’m 100 percent for this. It’ll be a great shot in the arm for Lockport.” Zoning Board member Allan Jack agreed. “This is another game changer for Lockport, along with Trek,” Jack said, referring to the electronic instrument maker that has just moved into Harrison Place on Walnut Street, bringing 100 high-tech jobs.

Robert Schurr of Schaefer Supply on Market Street, across from the rink site, also hailed the project.

“Those rinks will be booked solid. There are plenty of ice hockey teams desperate for home rinks,” said Schurr, who said he has been on the Starpoint High School hockey coaching staff for 15 years.

Bell said he’s not sure the design will be ready in time to go before the city Planning Board at its regular Aug. 5 meeting. He said a special meeting could be called, or it could wait until the September meeting. The county board meets Aug. 19.