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City Ice Arena Expansion Project Restarted

The expansion project at Northwest Arena was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but was restarted earlier this month. The project is scheduled to continue through the fall. P-J photo by Christian Storms

Like several aspects of life during the past three months, the expansion project to add three floors to Northwest Arena was on pause during most of the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the project, which was shutdown from March 22 to June 8, was restarted earlier this month.

“We had a slight delay because of the COVID situation,” said Keith Martin, Northwest Arena executive director. “We were fortunate enough to get back going with the steel erection June 8. As you can see, it’s going up rather quickly.”

David Leathers, Jamestown Center City Development Corporation co-president, said the original schedule for the project was to complete the outershell of the addition before the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which is normally during the first week of August.

“Our new schedule is to have the outershell and external portion done by mid-September now and then the internal build out will go until the end of November,” he said.

Leathers said there has been no additional cost to the $4.5 million expansion project because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve worked diligently to keep on top of that,” he said. “At least right now, I would say no real expense increase, separate from the delay itself,” he said.

Construction started in November on the expansion of the Northwest Arena after grant commitments were received from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Gebbie Foundation. The foundations have together made $4.5 million in grant commitments toward the construction project. The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation committed $1.5 million over two years and the Gebbie Foundation has pledged $375,000 a year for eight years for a total of $3 million.

The 15,000-square-foot addition will improve accessibility and visibility to the arena and includes office, retail and added exhibit space for the National Comedy Center and will lay the groundwork for a sports-themed attraction for youth. There are two phases to the project.

The first phase includes construction of the exterior structure and build out of interior spaces on the first and third floors. The second phase entails the construction of the sports-themed attraction on the second floor of the building.

Martin said on the first floor of the expansion will be the new Netflix Stand-up Comedy Hall of Fame location. He said the initial group of hall of famers was going to be enshrined during this year’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, but it has been postponed until next summer. He said the third floor is going to be office and conference room space for National Comedy Center employees. Both the first and third floor space will be leased to center officials.

Martin said the second floor is going to be an area known as “The Zone,” which is going to be an interactive children’s play area. He said a fundraising campaign will be started to raise the additional funding for the interactive activities in The Zone.

“That will be coming a year after the original build,” he said.

Leathers said another aspect of the construction project will be the renovations to where wedding receptions and the Wits n’ Giggles comedy events have been held at the arena.

“We’re going to open up the whole area and make it more expansive with the windows that over look the main rink,” he said. “We’re going to open it up a bit so we can hear events going on from the special events space. It’s also being upgraded during the next few months.”

Kristy Zabrodsky, Jamestown Center City Development Corporation co-president, said E.E. Austin & Son of Erie, Pa., which also has a location in Falconer, is the contractor for the project.

“This expansion will enhance the arena’s vision to serve as a year-round destination enriching the community and its visitors by providing diverse recreational and entertainment experiences in a state-of-the-art venue,” Zabrodsky said. “We are very thankful to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. and Gebbie Foundations for their significant investments.”

The Northwest Arena dual-pad ice arena opened in 2002 and, according to arena officials, averages more than 250,000 turnstile visits a year. It offers figure skating instruction and competitions, ice hockey for all ages, ice bumper cars, a walking track and most recently, backyard curling. The building regularly hosts ice hockey tournaments and has hosted comedy festival headliners such as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, John Mulaney and Sebastian Maniscalco.

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