Support for Civic Center voiced
by Terry Duffy
The Lewiston Civic Center again dominated the goings-on at Monday's Lewiston Town Board meeting.
With the Niagara River Greenway Commission set to vote on consistency for the Civic Center proposal at its Tuesday, May 21, general meeting in the Beaver Island State Park Clubhouse on Grand Island, momentum continued to build. In fact, it seemed to overwhelm all other news at the session.
The meeting led off with a presentation by Pat Brown of Brown and Co. LLP CPAs, who provided the Town Board with pro-forma financials on the center and expectations for its first five years of operation.
Overall, Brown's comments and the financial forecasts for the center's operations were somewhat conservative in nature, but still very much on the upbeat. He forecasted an assumed debt service via Greenway funding of $8 million or $430,000 annually, and utility and heating costs covered by New York State Power Authority annual relicensing stipends to the town.
As to operation costs, Brown focused mainly on athletic events to be held at the center, seasonally over nine months, with virtually no activity in the summer, and forecasted the center would operate in the red with estimated revenue of $357,000 and expenses of $371,000 in year one. The center would see a roughly $14,000 deficit with no concessions or advertising revenue at its start.
But those numbers would be expected to change for the positive in years two through five and onward, said Brown. He envisioned average revenue increases of 10 percent per year from the growing center activities, athletic and possibly otherwise, while expenses, from areas such as maintenance, utilities, supplies, and staffing would be in the 5 percent range annually for years two to five. "I see a $200,000 surplus at the end of five years," Brown told the board. He factored in the town utilizing NYPA assistance to cover utility costs.
"Our work (on the numbers) compared assumptions to those facilities already operating" in the area, said Brown.
For Lewiston, he found only one possible weak area - that being $30,000 in revenues anticipated over five years from the use of basketball courts in the center. Brown said that was due to having no other comparisons to work off in the area and again being very conservative in his estimates.
"Look, these are assumptions, a road map," said Brown. "But they are very realistic."
Also very real at Monday's session was the strong enthusiasm in comments conveyed to the board from growing segments of the Lewiston community. Nine more offered their support, including Lewiston-Porter coaches and student athletes, plus very noted endorsements from a former Olympian with past involvement on the Greenway Commission, a former county legislator, and from prominent Lewiston area business interests.
•Townline Road resident Allen James, a former Olympian who now coaches soccer, called the new center "an important venue for all ages. It brings communities together," said the Sanborn resident, who told board members he doesn't see any negatives.
Allen also told the board of his past association with the Greenway Commission and opined that the center is very much "in keeping with the Greenway concept."
•Morgan Drive resident Lee Simonson, former county legislator, now associated with the Historical Association of Lewiston, strongly endorsed the Civic Center to the board. He spoke of three direct benefits that would come as a result of having such a facility: the new ability of Lewiston to attract and retain young families; the use of a year-long athletic center and a greater ability for Lewiston-Porter to nurture scholarship-caliber athletes; and the appeal of having a complete community center for residents of all ages. "This is our generation's gift to the future," said Simonson. It will be "a tremendous addition to the area."
•Businessman Calogero Soldano of Casa Antica Ristorante in Lewiston told Supervisor Steve Reiter and board members a new Civic Center means "great possibilities to business owners in the area. I see great things coming from the center to benefit all kinds of business. The possibilities are endless."
•Ron LaDuca, Recreation (Civic Center) member, provided Reiter and the board a letter from Alan R. Elia Jr. and Michael Elia, of Sevenson Environmental Services, pledging the company's intentions to provide "in kind services to the town to make the center as affordable as possible."
"Here are more examples of the positive response for this from the business community," he said. LaDuca offered a similar business commitment to board members last month.
Public comments to the Niagara River Greenway Commission on the Lewiston Civic Center are being accepted until April 30. Comments can be directed online at http://www.niagaragreenway.org.
The May 21 Greenway session is open to the public.