Tonawanda approves first step in main recreation growth

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Tonawanda City Council on Monday night hired a city-based firm to demolish the Brighton Park pool and begin work on a major, long-discussed recovery project.

The board members voted to pay Montante Construction, the lowest bidder, $4.7 million for the contract. The city plans to use federal stimulus aid to fund the work, which includes the start of construction on a replacement ice arena in Brighton.

It is the first step in completing an expansion of the city’s recreational facilities at Brighton and Lincoln parks.

“These costs relate to the demolition of the pool and associated site work, as well as the construction of much of the arena,” Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger said Monday night. “This is one of approximately 10 bids that we will be sending out for this project. As such, there will be more bids and approvals to proceed with this renewal project.”

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City officials had reinstated plans in March to build a new, larger ice arena and spray park at Brighton Park and to convert Lincoln Park’s aging ice rink into a sports ground house.

The new proposal also included pickleball pitches, a field for soccer and rugby, and a beach volleyball pitch – an earlier project plan stalled two years earlier over cost concerns, expanding outdoor leisure facilities.

In a further amendment to the proposal, the City no longer plans to keep the existing ice rink in Brighton once the new ice rink is built in the park.

The project is supported by the city’s youth hockey community, whose members said Tonawanda desperately needs updated ice rinks to replace arenas at Brighton and Lincoln parks, which are over 60 years old and too small to host hockey tournaments.

Critics at the time cited a price tag that had risen to $13 million and lamented the loss of the Brighton Park pool.

After withdrawing the proposal in 2020, Emminger said earlier this year that the city and its Department of Youth, Parks and Recreation are better positioned to take on a project whose cost could reach an estimated $16 million.

That’s partly because the city can now draw on federal Covid-19 relief funds to help cover costs.

The contract, which was approved by City Council on Monday, will see Montante demolish Brighton Park’s full-size pool and paddling pool, carry out the necessary site work and begin construction of the replacement ice arena.

Emminger said during Monday’s meeting that work on the entire project should be completed by 2024.

Fixed an issue that could hold up the project. A US$79,000 state land and water grant used to refurbish the Brighton Pool in the mid-1980s limited future changes to the pool site.

However, the city has received approval to proceed with the demolition of the pool and construction of the spray park and ice rink. The State Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation and the National Park Service agreed that changing from a pool to a spray park does not significantly change the use of the site and that building a covered ice rink is acceptable.