Utica, NY (WIBX) - A groundbreaking ceremony, lead by Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks, was to celebrate the long awaited construction of the Irish Cultural Community Center of the Mohawk Valley. Many gathered for the event that took place at the corner of Columbia and Huntington St. in Utica, the future site of the Irish Center. Matthew Sullivan, the director of The Great American Irish Festival, a non-profit organization, is credited for leading the movement that raised the necessary funds to establish the cultural center on what is being called, "sacred ground."

Chief Brooks said, "Prior to the year 2003, a subject was discussed at each Hibernian meeting, and the subject was the possibility of having our own building for our meetings and our gatherings and our celebrations. In 2003, was a dream to have an Irish Cultural Center and Matt Sullivan, who was probably the youngest guy in the room and didn't know any better, stepped up to volunteer to be Chairperson of the Building Committee. Looking back, I think few of us believed that Matt would be successful, or could even have imagined that we would be breaking ground today on this magnificent building where we will be celebrating our Irish heritage."

Brooks credited the Irish Fesitival for bringing them to this point and introduced Sullivan as the Executive Director of the Irish Cultural Center. Sullivan thanked all those who helped make the the event possible and said, "This site is sacred ground for the Irish community. Back in 1850, the first truly Irish Parrish was built on this spot and it survived until 1889 when there was a massive fire that destroyed it. About five years later the church was rebuilt bigger."

Sullivan went on to say that in 1966 a consolidation with St-Josephs, St Patrick's Church lead to the demolition of the Irish Parrish, making the $2 million construction project an important one for the Irish community. He added that although rebuilding on the old church property is important, being part of the hub of the brewery district, makes it especially important for the group as far as investment goes.

Construction of the 2-story multi-purpose, 10,000 square foot facility will include, a full basement, a banquet hall that will will be able to accommodate about 300 people, a  full commercial kitchen, an authentic Irish Pub, a cultural room, a meeting room as well as office spaces. "So, it really is a Community Center and we want every Irish organization, and for that matter, anybody else who would like to come down and utilize the building, when we get it up and running, to come down and take use of it," Sullivan said.  Construction of the building will begin, "as soon as the weather will allow," Sullivan said.

More From WIBX 950