NICHOLS, N.Y. - The community in and around Tioga Downs located in Nichols, N.Y. will soon have reason for celebration as a $44 million expansion project that will construct a wastewater treatment facility and then a hotel and convention center commences. Not only will the expansion improve the facility, it will also create a couple hundred jobs during its construction, as well as 75 full-time positions upon its completion of the hotel and center.

Surrounded by local dignitaries to include Senator Tom Libous (R-52) and recently elected Assemblyman Christopher Friend, Jeff Gural talked about the expansion project and what it will mean for the community.

"This is the beginning," said Gural to the crowd of approximately 50 that gathered for the official announcement and ground breaking ceremony that took place in the Winner's Circle, and then outside where the hotel and convention center will be built.

Gural's announcement came during the same week that Tioga Downs is celebrating their fifth year anniversary. Harness racing began at the track in June 2006. Gaming at the casino began on July 4, 2006.

For Gural, and according to Tom Osiecki, president and general manager of Tioga and Vernon Downs, it was part of the vision. "It was Jeff's vision," said Osiecki to guests. "Gural is changing the face of this industry every day," he added.

Gural talked further of the project. For the first phase of the expansion, a wastewater treatment facility capable of processing 75,000 gallons of wastewater per day will be constructed. "We need this badly," said Gural.

"We first have to have the ability to flush the toilets, so the sewage treatment is the first step," he added. The wastewater treatment facility will cost approximately $2.73 million.

Following the treatment facility construction, a hotel with up to 132 rooms and a restaurant, a 7,230 square foot convention center, a 10,000 square foot outdoor terrace, and covered parking for approximately 224 vehicles will be constructed.

The wastewater treatment facility is anticipated by Gural to be completed by 2012, with the hotel and convention center expected to be available for use by 2014.

Companies involved in the project include Larson Design Group out of Corning, N.Y. for the engineering design; Vacri Construction out of Binghamton, N.Y., general contracting; and Climans Green Liang out of Toronto, Canada, new hotel architects.

Gural noted that he hired local companies to perform the work, and that the expansion and everything they are doing is for the community.

With 782 video gaming machines, 16 electronic tables and live harness racing, Tioga Downs not only grew, according to Gural, they exceeded the $42 million that they were projected to bring in last year.

"We'll be around $55 million from our video lottery terminals," said Gural. "We were $12 million to $13 million over what the experts projected," he added.

But Gural also gave credit to Senator Tom Libous for their growth and success. "We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for his efforts," Gural said of Libous. "He worked hard to have the law changed to a lower tax rate," he added of the gaming operations.

And Gural is looking forward to more assistance from Libous as they work to bring table games into the facility. "We are working start the constitutional change," said Gural, "and I hope to see it up for a vote in November of 2013.

He added that Pennsylvania already has table gaming, and it is very popular among younger folks. He also noted that the advantage to adding table games would be that it would also create jobs.

Following remarks from Libous, Gural and Assemblyman Christopher Friend, guests were welcomed to the site where the hotel will be constructed for a ground breaking ceremony.