NIAGARA FALLS — The Seneca Gaming Corp. has made good on the first piece of a five-year financial commitment to Niagara County Community College’s new culinary arts center in downtown Niagara Falls.
Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter and Seneca Gaming Corp. Chairman Robert Mele held a press conference Friday outside the site of the new culinary center on Old Falls Street where they announced the delivery of $375,000 to the college.
The payment is the first of several to be made under a $1.275 million agreement reached last year that will allow the gaming corporation to partner with the college on marketing, special events sponsorship and the training of culinary arts students. The deal represents the largest single corporate investment in the center to date.
Porter called the partnership with NCCC “just another example” of the nation’s commitment to helping grow the economy in Western New York through its gaming operations in places like Niagara Falls.
“We already are expanding in so many ways,” Porter said. “People don’t live in there and never leave. Everything that goes on in terms of our business has a spin-off effect in terms of our employment, our vendors and people we do business with as a general matter. So, this is just another tangible recognition of how the Seneca Nation businesses are collaborative and harmonious with our surrounding neighborhood.”
Area leaders are hoping the $30 million culinary center will set a new standard for development in the downtown area. The facility is being built a few blocks down from the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel inside 90,000-square-feet of space at the Old Falls Street end of the former mall building.
Once completed, it will offer a student-run restaurant, European-style pastry cafe, New York-style deli and a Barnes and Noble bookstore on the street level, with classrooms, cooking areas, an ice-sculpting lab and other features on the upper two floors.
NCCC President James Klyczek said crews are continuing construction work inside the building and the entire project remains on schedule for completion by Aug. 31. College officials are expecting as many as 350 culinary students to begin taking classes inside the facility starting with the fall semester.
“The Seneca Nation has been incredibly supportive of the college for a number of years, but it is especially supportive of our culinary institute — our signature endeavor,” Klyczek said. “This facility is going to revolutionize the way our hospitality and tourism students learn their various crafts. The Seneca Nation recognized early on the value of the project to the community from both economic and workforce development perspectives and have been a champion for us ever since.”