by DeAnna Kajfasz
The City of Niagara Falls will soon be home to a $6 million sports and educational facility, which will offer a number of programs and services for members of the community. Once built, The Niagara Community Center (run as a nonprofit organization) will be located next to Niagara Catholic Junior-Senior High School at 520 66th St.
The indoor segment of the facility will include four different interchangeable courts to accommodate arrangements for tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. This portion of the facility will not be limited to these sports, but will also supply a place for a variety of different teams to practice year-round. Parallel to the indoor facility will be a brand-new outdoor field, which will accommodate sports including football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and cheerleading.
Brian Hall, secretary of The Niagara Community Center board of directors, and dean of students at Niagara Catholic, said the primary purpose for The Niagara Community Center will be to supply a positive and safe environment for children in the community.
"The main benefit The Niagara will have on the community will be through the youth, particularly the underprivileged youth," he said. "The program is going to be set up similar to a LaSalle Boys and Girls Club. There is going to be an instructional program on leadership, on health and wellness, and on education and academics."
Students will have access to the facility after school to participate in numerous programs. These programs will concentrate on four main proponents: education for literacy, tutoring and college and career readiness; leadership, life skills and character development; health and wellness, including athletics, fitness and nutrition; and arts and creativity, including music.
In order to reach a large number of children in the community, The Niagara has already formed partnerships with The Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club, Niagara University and Niagara Catholic. The Niagara is open to forming additional partnerships with other organizations that share its vision to "help the youth improve themselves through education and exercise, while offering a safe place for them to conduct positive activities after school."
In addition to the athletic courts, The Niagara will include its own classrooms with access to computer labs for students to improve their academics. Hall said students at Niagara University are going to be heavily involved with The Niagara. The college's education majors will have the opportunity to help provide literacy instruction to the youth of Niagara Falls by supplying tutoring and help with homework.
"Our goal is to help break the cycle of poverty through education," Hall said.
The Niagara will also work with the hospitality, tourism and sports management departments at Niagara University to help staff the facility. This will be a way to provide real-life experience for students, as well as instruction on how to run a sports complex.
The Niagara Center is a unique facility no other school in the area will have. Niagara Catholic administrators realize it will be an added feature for students seeking a junior-senior high school.
"This new facility will allow us to expand our athletic and physical education program, giving students greater opportunities," said Niagara Catholic Principal Ronald Buggs. "This should allow us to grow enrollment and attract students who are interested in a well-rounded, highly academic, and experienced-based high school opportunity."
After school, the students at Niagara Catholic will have two of the courts reserved for their athletics. This will permit more sports teams to practice at the same time and will allow students to go home early and get homework done rather than wait around for late night practices, Hall said. He noted The Niagara plans to offer a summer camp for every sport offered at Niagara Catholic as a way to improve athletics.
"I'm really excited for The Niagara to be built," said Niagara Catholic junior Jeana Franjoine. "It will allow more opportunity and flexibility for practices, and it will be a way for students to get together and train in all seasons or to just have fun. "
The youths of the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club, Niagara Catholic and Niagara University will all be granted access to The Niagara, but it is not limited to just these organizations. Any youth in the community can qualify to join The Niagara as a junior member.
The Niagara's membership plan states adults in the community will also have the opportunity to become a member. Members will have the opportunity to rent court time, sign up for lessons and clinics, create a team in one of their leagues, or host an event, which will all be offered at a discounted market rate.
"I think that The Niagara Community Center is going to be a great addition to Niagara Falls," said local resident Angie Wiler. " I love to play tennis, and it is exciting that I have the option to join a close facility which will allow me to play year-round."
Hall said The Niagara Community Center has already raised $2 million and is continuing to work with other organizations for additional funding. He said he hopes construction will begin in late summer of this year.
"Everyone who we have talked to about The Niagara is really excited, because it has three things: an educational component with Niagara Catholic and Niagara University; it has the athletic portion; and it has the health and wellness part of it. So, it's a win on a lot of different levels," Hall said.
For more information about The Niagara Community Center and its mission, visit www.the-niagara.com.
DeAnna Kajfasz is a Niagara University student working with the communication studies department. She is a contributing writer on this website.