Just in time for the cold winter months, children in Niagara Falls have a brand new indoor modern athletic facility for playing softball, volleyball, tennis or soccer. The Niagara Community Center has opened on property formerly owned by the Diocese of Buffalo, behind Niagara Catholic Junior and Senior High School, on 66th Street in Niagara Falls.
"It's an incredible facility and a wonderful asset for Niagara Catholic as well as the community at large," said Dr. Robert Cluckey, president and principal of Niagara Catholic, which has agreed to take care of the maintenance, plowing and scheduling for the facility, which will also be used by the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club, Niagara University and the Police Athletic League. "In late fall and winter, and then in the spring when everybody is just clamoring for space to get ready for softball and baseball or lacrosse, this place is probably going to be used 18 hours in a day, both by us and certainly the community as well."
"You don't know how good you got it, kids," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster to the Niagara Catholic students gathered inside for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday morning. "That's spoken as a graduate of Bishop Duffy High School, Class of 1972."
The 21,000 square foot facility involved years of planning by Gary Hall, president of WTS, an environmental consulting business based in Lewiston. "This has been a dream and the dream has become a reality," said Hall, who grew up in Niagara Falls. He thanked Cannon Design for doing free architectural work, JA Brundage Plumbing for working on the washrooms for free, and the engineers from GHD for doing engineering at no cost. "It's also about all the other contractors that discounted their rates and a $4 million potential cost and brought in for about $2.7 million."
Mayor Dyster read a proclamation recognizing the opening of The Niagara and applauded Gary Hall, president of The Niagara Board of Trustees, for giving back to his community. "It's very gratifying for me as mayor to know that we have someone like Gary Hall, who has made good," said Dyster. "Instead of being selfish with his wealth, he is looking at how he can invest in the community from which he came. You set a model for business people throughout our community."
"This is just an asset that quite frankly, most schools don't have," said Dr. Cluckey, who noted that Niagara Catholic Junior and Senior High School students are already having most of their gym classes in the facility, which opened in September. "They're really in awe. They walk in through the breezeway and look up and they literally come in the door and just run. They run around until everyone's in and then they settle down and do whatever activity they're going to be doing that day. It's just a very natural expression of how much they enjoy it."
Gary Hall noted that Niagara Catholic students are not the only ones using it. "We've only been open about six weeks and we're already serving about 500 youth in our community." Hall is hoping to raise an additional million dollars to put a mezzanine level around the perimeter for a running track, computer lab and graphics studio. "We're just getting started. This could be a blueprint for many more facilities like this in other parts of our community that need it."
For more information see www.the-niagara.com