Village of Lewiston projects moving along
By Joshua Maloni
Standing in front of the relocated Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell on Wednesday morning, Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch and Deputy Mayor Vic Eydt couldn’t help but express their excitement for what Academy Park could be, now that its biggest asset is resituated.
“I think this is awesome,” Welch said. “This is the perfect place for this. It should have been here to begin with, because it opens up to the whole park for concerts; the Peach Festival – they're gonna love it.”
Eydt said, “You come around the corner – you stop at the corner down there – and you look at that (“Circle of Honor” veterans) monument. It's wide open. I mean, it's just like, ‘Holy cow.’ Now that the grandstand’s been moved and the bleachers are down, it’s incredible.”
“It just opens the park up,” Welch said.
“It just opens it all up,” Eydt reiterated.
DiMino Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino financed the bandshell’s creation 20 years ago. The structure originally sat right off the corner of Portage Road, with the stage facing Center Street. It was most notably used for Niagara County Peach Festival events such as concerts, dance competitions and the Peach Queen pageant.
The bandshell is now located at the corner of Portage Road and Cayuga Street, across from Syros Restaurant and Warren’s Village Hardware. Its stage faces the field and will be able to accommodate more events.
It was about two years ago Welch said Academy Park wasn’t being used to its full potential. She formed a committee to formulate plans to increase usage, add art and bolster amenities.
Soon after, DiMino said he would cover the cost of moving the bandshell.
“My father, who was a pillar of the community, needed something for people to remember him by,” DiMino said. “He was very active in the Rotary Club. He was very active in a lot of things. And he supported this village, just like our family has supported this village since 1964.”
DiMino explained, “It wasn't being utilized. And the reason they were saying was that it was faced the wrong way. If you had a band, that they would not be able to see their music or whatever, and so, obviously I built the bandshell originally so it could actually be utilized; so that's why I moved it.”
The green bleacher seating area was torn down in late May 2020, but the pandemic slowed further progress last year.
Foundations for the new bandshell site were set into the ground in recent weeks. The structure was driven across the field Tuesday. Work continued Wednesday, as FTH Enterprises of Amherst oversaw installation.
DiMino said the new stage “is going to be actually twice the size of what it was before. So, it would be accommodating not only for the Peach Festival. … You know, how they always had to extend the stage. They won't have to extend the stage. The stage will be a larger size.
“That's what I originally wanted, because I felt that I wanted a stage big enough to have the Buffalo Philharmonic on. But it really was not enough space. I think we should be able to accommodate that now.
“And we’ve doubled the size of the staging area in the back for not only storage, but for larger venues that needed more space in the actual staging area.”
An artist's rendering of the Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell upgrades. (Images courtesy of Giusiana Architects)
DiMino hoped to have the bandshell relocated by Memorial Day, but “The COVID thing has not made it easy.
“This move is two weeks behind our schedule. So now everything else is behind. We've had to modify our original plans three or four times because of the lack of the materials that we envisioned using. We're trying to work around and get this thing done for summer use.”
The Lewiston Council on the Arts recently announced its “Summer of 69” and “Blue Mondays” concert series would move from Hennepin Park to the larger Academy Park.
“I know the Council on the Arts is going to be putting a temporary stage up. And then, if everything goes right, we should be done by the end of July,” DiMino said of the possibility LCA could use the bandshell this season.
Welch thanked DiMino for his contributions.
“I am so grateful for him to actually do this bandshell, originally, and now to move it at his expense,” she said. “I mean, to have somebody like that in the community to step up and do this for us is unbelievable.”
“Yeah, because we've never been able to do this on our own,” Eydt said.
“I can't even begin to say how grateful I am,” Welch said.
What’s Next for Academy Park
More changes are coming to Academy Park, some as soon as this summer:
•Former bandshell site:
Once the relocation process ends and leftover materials are collected, Welch said the Department of Public Works will grade and seed the former bandshell site.
Eydt noted, “We are going to leave electrical over here so that, in the future, we're looking at the possibility of putting a shelter up there – a pavilion up there. So, we got all that possibility. And electric and water is already there if we wanted to do that.”
Welch said, “I would like one or two pavilions for people, because this is so open now you can have huge events here. And like I say, concerts – you know you can fill this whole park.”
Adjacent to the former bandshell site is a gazebo Lewiston Kiwanians have used for Peach Festival announcements. It was also used last summer for the Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market.
Unfortunately, Welch said the hut is not in great shape. She called it the “Leaning Tower of Lewiston.”
“We’ve got to figure out what to do with that little gazebo, because it’s leaning. It's got to be either structurally fixed, or we'll have to take it down,” she said.
Eydt noted, “It looks in better shape than what it is.”
Welch said, “Maybe we talk to Kiwanis and maybe they get their guys together to stabilize it and fix it, and then (DPW Superintendent) Larry (Wills) can move it?”
The Town of Lewiston created a stone driveway into Academy Park to accommodate setup of an ice rink that was operated in front of the bandshell in past, prepandemic years. That attraction is not expected to return to Academy Park.
“We’re going to leave the road in, temporarily, at least through the Peach Festival, and then we’ll probably take that out,” Eydt said.
“We're going to start on the restroom (renovation), because we got the grant for that,” Welch said. “We’re getting some estimates for that; so, we're going to do that this summer, too.”
The Niagara River Greenway Trail bike path, which traverses the Niagara Scenic Parkway to an off-ramp at Seneca Street, will circle Academy Park, go down Cayuga Street, go up Fourth Street to the Red Brick and the new inclusive playground, and then continue down River Road to Youngstown.
Welch said a promenade will be created in between the new bathroom building and the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce office.
•Electric car-charging stations:
The Village of Lewiston has received grant money to install a pair of electric car-charging ports. Eydt said one will be placed near the chamber office, with a second going on Water Street – likely by the fish-cleaning station.
Welch has said it makes sense to celebrate Lewiston’s lauded artistic community by showcasing artworks inside or on the periphery of Academy Park.
However, “We had to stop all the art (planning) meetings, because of COVID,” she said. “We have to get back to doing that again, too. Mike Hibbard is trying to get his place open (the new Gallo at Center and North Fourth streets), and he's going to start with the art down there. But, yeah, I want to get the group back together and see what we can do around the village, and maybe along the walkway over there put some pieces and have art in the park.”
All in all, “I think we're on the right track with redoing this park,” Welch said. “I think, as you can see, it's a beautiful park; and moving this and taking the old bleachers down.”
“It’s just going to give it a whole new life,” Eydt said.
“And this is our premier park; this is what it's meant to be,” Welch said. “It's meant to be for the residents and visitors. … Like I say, this is a big park that we can have big events.”
With the Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell moved to a new location this week, new options have opened up for Lewiston’s Academy Park. Additional work is slated for the comfort station area, and a tie-in will be built with the Niagara River Greenway Trail bike path.
Top and bottom images courtesy of Marianne Gittermann
Photo by Terry Duffy
Photos by Joshua Maloni