Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — A new pavilion at Lincoln Park named for former Youth, Parks and Recreation director Donald Kunzelman was unveiled in a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday.
Kunzelman, who served as the director for 15 years, is known by many as one of the most charitable men in the town — so naming it in his honor was an easy choice.
“He dedicated his life to the town,” current director of the department Dan Wiles said at Friday night’s ceremony, which drew a few dozen people. “He bleeds blue and green.”
Kunzelman, who is still a town resident, has been a member of the Ken-Ton Kiwanis club for 50 years and is a lifetime member of the fraternal organization the Masons, volunteers for his church and has played Santa Claus for the town, too.
“He has played Santa for decades,” Wiles said. “Three generations — people that are now grandparents — have sat on his lap.”
Wiles compared Kunzelman to George Bailey, of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“He is all those things when you watch that movie,” Wiles said. “The world would be a better place if there were all Don Kunzelmans.”
Wiles said the Ken-Ton Kiwanis had the idea to name the building after Kunzelman, and Wiles, as well as the two Lions clubs that also contributed funds to the project, readily agreed.
Unfortunately, Kunzelman was admitted to the hospital Friday and wasn’t able to make the ceremony. But he was able to talk to the audience when Wiles called him and put Kunzelman on speaker phone.
“Everything I got to do was a lot of fun,” he said. “This is a big honor for me.”
A plaque for Kunzelman was presented to his son in his absence.
The idea for the new pavilion came as a result of increased demand for the pavilion in Sheridan Park.
“We know we rent out the NOCO Pavilion frequently,” he said. “And in the summer time, there is definitely a need for another facility.”
Wiles said the construction began after Labor Day and finished up within the past few weeks. The town will handle renting of the structure, which will cost $150.
Town employees built and designed the structure, which cost the town about $90,000.
“Our original estimate was between $70,000 and $75,000, but we upscaled it a bit here and there when our guys had a few ideas,” Wiles said.
The building does have some key differences when compared to the Sheridan Park pavilion, however. The structure has seven garage doors that go up and down, allowing for parties in both the summer and winter, and has a more rustic feel overall.
It features a large screen TV, iPod hookups that can play both music inside and outside as well as a large patio and fire pit.
“There are two restrooms in there, a coat room and a kitchen area,” Wiles said.
Twelve picnic tables were setup in the pavilion Friday night, but there was still ample room for guests to walk around.
“This is going to be a great compliment to our town and the park,” Town Supervisor Anthony Caruana said. “We can use it for Summer Fest and Winter Fest, and in the summer, those at the pool can use it, and in the winter, those at the rink can.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150