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Expanded recreation plans greeted favorably in Tonawanda

A revised plan to improve the Town of Tonawanda's parks and recreation venues by adding an ice arena, sports field house and splash pad received strong backing from the public.

The vast majority of speakers at Monday's Town Board meeting said they supported this latest version of a long-debated plan to upgrade Tonawanda's Brighton ice arena.

Town officials said expanding the development turns the $8.8 million or so project from a money loser to, potentially, a money maker.

Supervisor Joseph Emminger and other town officials unveiled details of the project at Monday's meeting, where a presentation and public comment lasted for more than 1 hour and 45 minutes.

"It's long overdue," said Kyle Pray, a youth hockey coach and Willowgrove South resident.

At Brighton Park, the town would construct a new ice arena; retain the current ice arena as a second rink; and replace the existing pools with a splash pad. At Lincoln Park, the town would transform the existing ice arena into a field house.

Consultants and town employees laid out specifics about each of the proposed facilities and projections on costs and use.

The 50,000-square-foot arena building at Brighton Park would have seating for 500 people and upgraded locker rooms, concessions and other amenities.

The universally accessible splash pad, built to the side of the new arena, would have a capacity to hold up to 200 kids from toddlers to teenagers. The Brighton venues would be served by 500 new parking spaces on both sides of Brompton Road.

Lincoln Park's ice arena would be converted to an artificial turf field house serving field hockey, baseball, soccer and other sports teams.

Many speakers said demand for time at the arena and the field house would be high.

"I think this project generates excitement," said Brian Anken, director of athletics for St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, which must use venues outside Tonawanda for its various hockey programs.

Jeff Rainey, the town's recreation supervisor, said when estimated revenues and expenses for the three new facilities are taken into account, including paying off the bond, the town should generate $87,000 annually in profit.

When a handful of speakers questioned the financial projections, the supervisor said, "If we're wrong, vote us out."

Broadmoor Drive resident Michelle Boctor lamented the loss of the pool that serves the town's northern section. If Brighton closes, Tonawanda still would have two outdoor pools and the Aquatic Center. Other speakers suggested residents should have a chance to vote on the proposal in a public referendum.

But most said the improvements would bring back hockey players and other athletes who now practice and play games elsewhere.

The Town Board took no action on the project. The next formal step would be to borrow the money for the work, but Emminger gave no indication Monday when that board vote could happen.

'Much more than an ice rink': Tonawanda hopes recreation expansion wins support

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