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Northwest Arena Expansion project continues

A conceptual rendering of “The Locker Room” inside “The Zone,” which is going to be an interactive children’s play area inside the Northwest Arena addition. Submitted Photo

JAMESTOWN — Some aspects of the new expansion project at Northwest Arena can currently be used by the public as construction continues on the three-floor addition.

Not all features are available inside the $4.5 million expansion project that will house a Netflix Stand-up Comedy Hall of Fame; “The Zone,” which is going to be an interactive children’s play area; office space; and a conference room.

However, a newly renovated reception area, with catering capabilities, that overlooks the main ice arena rink is available for the public, organizations or businesses to rent, said Keith Martin, Northwest Arena general manager.

The event space is where the arena’s Wits ‘n Giggles stand-up comedy shows have been held, which has been expanded to provide more room. David Leathers, Jamestown Center City Development Corp. co-president, said the space has always had windows that overlooked the main ice rink. However, after the expansion project, the windows will now slide open so people can use the space to have a better experience during all events hosted at Northwest Arena like hockey games, stand-up comedy specials and musical performances.

“Now people will be able to open the windows to get closer to the event that is happening,” he said.

Kristy Zabrodsky, Jamestown Center City Development Corp. co-president, said the space can be rented for wedding receptions and corporate events.

Martin said the space is available to rent, with COVID-19 precautions in place. He said the new protocols at the arena are in place for hockey games, which could start again soon. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stating that possibly next month sports teams could start their seasons. Martin added the arena has been reopened since Sept. 9 after shutting down at the start of the pandemic in March. Since then, figure skaters, youth hockey players and curling participants have been back on the ice.

The next aspect of the expansion project that will be available is the office space on the third floor that will be leased by the National Comedy Center. Leathers said the office space should be completed in the next four to six weeks. The office space will also include a new conference room that overlooks the downtown area along West Second and Third streets and the Chadakoin River. Zabrodsky said the conference room will be available to rent for board meetings and business receptions.

The second floor of the expansion project will house “The Zone.” There will be several features to the children’s area, with one being an announcer stating a child’s name as they enter the area with the colors of their favor sports team being highlighted, Martin said. He also said there will be a space for children to have their photo taken with their favorite sports team uniform for their very own sports card. He added children will also be able to design their very own locker for their favorite sport. Zabrodsky said there will be several sports to select from like football, ice skating and soccer.

In the free play area, children will be able to play all kinds of different sports and games, and there is even an overhead jumbotron that will show instant replays. The area will also include STEAM and STEM educational learning activities. The Zone will also include a toddler bullpen for infants. Children will also be given an RFID chip to record each experience they have at The Zone, so they can know when they’ve hit a personal best score.

“There will be a variety of activities to keep them busy,” Martin said.

Zabrodsky said arena officials were in the final design phase when the COVID-19 pandemic started in the region, so they were able to design The Zone with coronavirus protocols in place.

“We were able to implement the necessary safety precautions,” she said.

Leathers said arena officials are still fundraising for the money to equip The Zone, which he said will be done by the end of the year. He said construction will then start, with the goal to have the children’s area open by May or June 2022.

The first floor of the expansion project will still include the secondary rink at the arena. However, a new concession area has been constructed outside the secondary rink so people no longer have to go upstairs to the concession area overlooking the main rink if they want food or a drink.

“It makes it easier for people to get snacks,” Martin said.

The first floor will also include the creation of “The Hall,” the new Netflix stand-up comedy hall of fame, with that aspect of the project being supervised by comedy center officials. Zabrodsky said the comedy center is leasing the space from the arena for the Hall of Fame and the office space.

“We are currently in the design phase, but do not yet have an opening date,” said National Comedy Center marketing and communications vice president. “Our goal is to build out this new attraction as the travel and tourism industry continues to rebound from the pandemic, so that it’s ready to welcome visitors soon after tourism has returned to normal levels.”

Overall, despite construction being shut down from March 22 to June 8 because of the pandemic, the project is still on budget, Leathers said. Expansion project construction started in November 2019 after grant commitments were received from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Gebbie Foundation. The foundations will fund the $4.5 million, with the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation committing $1.5 million over two years and the Gebbie Foundation funding $375,000 a year during the next eight years for a total of $3 million.

The contractor for the project is E.E. Austin & Son of Erie, Pa., which also has a location in Falconer.

Leathers said since construction restarted in June, there have been a couple supply chain delays and some workers have had to be quarantined during the pandemic. However, he said it’s impressive that that addition construction has continued during such a challenging time.

“It’s great to see the results and to be near the end,” he said.

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