Casino restoration at park continues
News Northtowns Bureau

A decade after a blaze leveled the casino at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, the restoration project that began last spring is nearer completion.

The foundation has been laid. The roof is going up in the next couple of weeks, and the bell-tower-style cupola, which is being made in Tennessee, is scheduled to be completed by the end of November, said Carol Gianadda Alaimo, owner of Gianadda Construction Corp., the general contractor for the project.

The cupola is very large, Alaimo said, comparing it to the one atop the University at Buffalo's Hayes Hall School of Architecture and Planning on Main Street.

"It's an impressive thing," she said.

The casino, which inspired fond summertime memories for Western New Yorkers for half a century, burned down in October 1992. Flames engulfed the 300-foot-long structure built in the 1930s and gutted the casino and its huge ballroom, restaurant and state parks police substation in the west end.

Since April, crews have been rebuilding the popular landmark, pouring foundation, laying concrete slabs and rehabilitating remnants of the 70-year old Georgian Colonial-style building - all in an effort to create a new structure that incorporates a section of the original building.

Construction work will continue throughout the winter, but the project will not be done until March, Alaimo said.

"We've been there all summer, doing masonry. It's going to be a beautiful building when done, an all masonry structure," she added.

The project involves reconfiguring the existing below-grade rear section of the building for multiple uses. Functions that had been located in the "wings" on the beach/marina side of the structure will be relocated inside the reworked 19,000-square-foot lower floor.

That lower level will house a concession stand, seating area, lifeguard office, changing rooms and other park operations facilities. Plans call for the rear wings to be demolished.

The newly built upper level's primary function will be as a 6,000-square-foot banquet hall, operated by an outside concessionaire.

The price tag of the construction is $4 million, with matching funds from state parks and the National Park Service.