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CLOSED COUNTY PARK SENDS SOCCER TOURNAMENT SCRAMBLING

The organizers of a large youth soccer tournament had to find another venue for play this weekend after the Erie County Legislature failed to reopen the county parks system.

Ruth Sylvester, president of the Akron Soccer League, said her organization had been under the impression until Thursday it could use the fields at Akron Falls County Park for its three-day tournament. At the last minute, the tournament had to be moved to the Newstead Town Park on Buell Street.

"We were forced to move equipment four times on Thursday. If we didn't have (Newstead Town Supervisor Gerald F. Summe) with us and the town parks people and all of the volunteers, we would have had to cancel," said Sylvester.

Ronald G. DeCarli, Akron Central school superintendent, gave the tournament organizers permission to also use the school district's athletic fields on Bloomingdale Avenue, she added.

About 150 teams and 5,000 youngsters from Western New York and Pennsylvania will be participating in the league's "Kick-it-First in Akron" soccer tournament through Sunday.

Organizers had been negotiating through Summe and Erie County Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer to get County Parks Commissioner Angelo Sedita to make an exception and allow the league to use the fields at Akron Falls Park. A month ago, Sedita said it would be a violation of the state's Taylor Law and the county's collective bargaining agreement with its Parks Department workers to make such an exception.

County spokesman Timothy Clark said Friday there was some hope before Wednesday that the County Legislature's Government Affairs Committee would recommend reopening the parks by this weekend, but the item never made it out of committee.

Sylvester said the last minute change in plans for the soccer league left organizers and volunteers scrambling. Not only is the tournament the biggest annual event held by the 25-year-old Akron Soccer League, it pumps thousands of extra dollars into the local economy in the Akron/Newstead area, she said.

"I wish they had told us from the get-go that we couldn't use the (Akron Falls County) park, instead of pulling the plug the day before," Sylvester said.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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