A win-win for Lockport and Cornerstone Arena


A win-win for Lockport and Cornerstone Arena


BY JOHN D’ONOFRIO john.donofrio@lockportjournal.com


Mar 12, 2017


Gauging by the reaction of visiting players and their families, Cornerstone Arena administrators and local businessmen, the 2017 New York State Amateur Hockey Association State Tournament has had a significant economic impact on the city, while leaving a positive impression on Lockport’s hundreds of out-of-town guests.

The major local sporting event at three separate rinks was expected to fill about 7,000 Western New York hotel rooms and generate more than $4.5M for the local economy. It may be difficult to come up with concrete final numbers everyone in Lockport can agree on, but downtown parking here was sparse this weekend, hotels were at or near capacity and local restaurants everywhere were packed with special guests.

“It’s been a huge boom for Lockport,” said Cornerstone Executive Director Tim Bulmer. “I know area businesses have been inundated with visitors from out of town, so we’re excited just to have it, host it and hopefully have it for years to come.”

Bulmer said tournaments aren’t the only events or programs the state-of-the-art, twin-rink Cornerstone Arena offers, but they’re important in many ways, especially the positive impact they make on teams and players who’ve seen it all and played at the finest facilities throughout the state and country.

The Cornerstone, they say, is unequivocally one of the Empire States’s most talked about arenas today.

“We’re very supportive of these types of events, especially the high-caliber tournaments,” Bulmer said. “We’ve had parents and teams from all over the state tell us how much they loved the facility — teams that came here from the Adirondacks, downstate New York, Long Island, mid-state, central New York, Syracuse Troy, Albany — you name it. It’s important for people across the state to know who we are.”

Penalty Box owner Jon George couldn’t be happier with all the added people coming to his bar/restaurant within the Cornerstone, where business was brisk throughout the last two tourney weekends.

“Thousands of people are pouring into Lockport and the arena,” said George, who’s been in business at the Cornerstone for the past year-and-a-half. “There’s teams from throughout the state and their families and there’s college scouts here. Everyone we’ve talked to has said that this is one of the nicest ice arenas they’ve ever seen and these people travel around the country and Canada. It’s just a great weekend for the arena and for Lockport.”

At DeFlippo’s Restaurant on West Avenue, owner Gerry DeFlippo said the tournament has drawn unusually large crowds throughout the city, including his long-time, family-owned establishment, where smiles and laughter could be seen and heard in every room.

“A Rochester hockey team called the restaurant on Friday night and asked if we could take of them in 20 minutes,” DeFlippo said.

“I said, ‘Come on in.’ There were 30 of them and they were all very nice people. It was kind of crazy on a Friday night. I talked to many of them — especially the kids — and they told me they were from the Rochester area and that they’ve really enjoyed their time at the arena and the city.”

Parents and players were talking positively about the arena.

“It’s one of the nicest arenas in the state and we’ve been to all of them,” one mom said. Her son, decked out in his Rochester team colors, nodded his head, adding, “We love the ice. It’s a great place to play hockey. I can’t wait until our game tomorrow.”

Newfane’s Arnie Jonathan said the arena, “is one of the best things that ever happened to Lockport.” Jonathan was rooting on a girls’ team from the St. Lawrence Seaway area in which his friend’s daughter plays on.

“Just think about all the hotels, stores and restaurants that are generating extra revenue as a direct result of this event,” Jonathan said. “The arena is been jam packed and it’s a great complex if you’re hoping to draw people from out of town.”

Bulmer said the tournament is nothing short of a giant success, another in a long string of successes.

“I feel that finally, the Cornerstone is being put on the map for New York State arenas, which is the end game for us,” Bulmer said.

“It was our vision from the beginning. Now, we’re getting into our second full year of operations and credibility. The newness, the energy efficiencies we have, it sets us apart. People who may have heard about it, but had yet to see it have now come to see it for the first time and taking home with them a positive experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

This year marks the fifth straight that the Amherst Youth Hockey Association and the Northtown Center have partnered together to host the state tournament. While Amherst’s Northtown Center is serving as the tournament host for each of the three championship weekends, the Cornerstone twin rink facility provided two sheets of ice to host competition during the first two weekends.

Following the tournament, Bulmer said plans are in the works to start an indoor lacrosse program at the arena.

Upcoming tryouts are slated for two youth hockey leagues that play at the Cornerstone — the Lockport Lock Monsters and the Clarence Mustangs. After that, Bulmer said the ice will come down for the summer on one of the two rinks.

“We will have a full-scale lacrosse program, as well as floor hockey. They will be new, off-season programs, in addition to many other special events,” Bulmer said.

Almost 150 hockey teams are expected to participate this year in the tournament and all games are free and open to the public.

Winners will advance to the national tournament, with the boys’ Tier I 14-U and Tier I 15 winners advancing to Scottsdale, Az., boys’ Tier I 16-U and 18-U winners advancing to Pittsburgh, Pa.; boys’ Tier II 14-U winners advancing to Coral Springs, Fla.; 16-U winners to Frisco, Texas; and 18-U winners to Lansing, Mich. Championship winners of girls’ Tier I for all ages will advance to Rochester, Minn. and Tier II girls division winners to Troy, Minn.

This weekend, 48 12-U teams from New York state will compete for the championship at the Northtown Center.

The Buffalo-Niagara tourism industry has had a significant boost in business every March for the last five straight years, thanks to the tournament, noted Visit Buffalo Niagara President and CEO Patrick Kaler.

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate with USA Hockey, as it plays a key role in advancing our region’s reputation as a destination for college and amateur sports,” Kaler said.

Lockport’s Cornerstone Arena is a state of the art twin sheet ice complex featuring a full service restaurant and a performance training center. Opened in 2014, Cornerstone Arena is home to inclusive offerings such as hockey, public skating, learn to skate, figure skating and programming opportunities for developmental disabilities and special needs. http://www.cornerstoneicearena.com.

Contact US&J Sunday Editor John D’Onofrio at 439-9222 Ext. 6247.