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Amherst asks state for $2.2 million for fifth rink at Northtown Center

A plan to build a fifth ice rink at the Northtown Center in Amherst depends on the town receiving nearly $2.2 million from the  state, town officials said this week.

"If we get that funding, then there's no question that the project will pay for itself," said Mary-Diana Pouli, executive director of the town’s Youth & Recreation Department. "It'll cover not only construction expenses with the bonding, but also the debt service."

Ensuring the expansion is at least a break-even proposition has been the main sticking point in discussions of a fifth rink in recent years. The Town Board this week agreed to seek a grant accounting for 20 percent of the total estimated cost of nearly $11 million.

"We got a resolution last night that we're applying for funding from the state, which I believe will make the project self-sufficient. So that the revenue from the project will cover its operating expense," said Steven D. Sanders, the deputy town supervisor.  "That's kind of a key part of that, because without that, I don't see moving it forward."

The town is seeking up to $2,187,655 from a statewide pot of $247.25 million for direct assistance to businesses and organizations administered by Empire State Development Corporation.

"In order to make everyone on the Town Board comfortable with the project we felt that we needed to have a little bit of outside money to make sure everything was a go," Pouli said.

Adding yet another ice pad to the four-rink municipal complex off Maple Road is essential for accommodating the growing demand for ice rink usage, she said, noting there's a waiting list for premium ice time.

A July 2015 report – released by a 22-member committee comprised mostly of stakeholders that would use the facility – showed a fifth rink would cost $10.4 million, which was revised earlier this year to $10.94 million.

"We have been trying since then to see if we can find some private funds or some additional public funding to close the gap," Pouli said.

The deadline for applications to Empire State Development is July 28, with results known in late November or early December.

"Once the applications come in they are sorted by program and then assigned to an appropriate agency for review for eligibility," Pamm Lent, an agency spokeswoman, said by email. "The projects are then put into score groups populated by the WNY Regional Economic Development Council, which makes the recommendations for funding."

If the town receives the state grant, the remaining $8.75 million would have to be budgeted in by lawmakers as part of the town’s annual capital-improvement program.


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