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Residents seek vote on sports complex

With the school district's current $23.5 million capital project still under way, some district residents are again pushing for the School Board to hold a referendum on the construction of a multisport athletic complex at the high school.

Voters turned down a similar proposition by 500 votes in 2008; on the same ballot, they approved the current project, a renovation of the high school.

"The window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller," said Patrick Burke, the district's athletic director. "Our facilities are definitely in need of an upgrade. Nothing has been done other than routine maintenance for 15 years."

Burke's goal is a capital project that would fund a renovation of the current facilities and construction of an athletic center large enough to host sectional, regional and state tournaments for sports that include soccer and lacrosse.

In 2008, state aid would have covered 89 percent of such a project, but now the state offers to cover 93 percent. Since the district's capital reserve fund holds $5 million, Burke argues that it could support up to a $68 million capital project without raising taxes.

The district might not need to touch the reserve fund, he said.

"We are committed to holding fundraising campaigns to raise the local-share portion of the project's total," he said. "We would attempt to not use much or any of that fund. It doesn't need to cost a thing."

The quality of the athletic curriculum would improve if coaches and students are given a state-of-the-art facility with which to work, said Scott Reddinger, boys' lacrosse coach.

The use of athletic fields would be less affected by weather conditions, for example, and could stay open as long as it's decided to keep the lights on.

Such a facility also stands to generate revenue for the city, said Jim Slowey, president of the Lockport Soccer Club.

"One of the things we need to do as a community is bring people here," he said. "With a showcase field like that, you can really start hosting tournaments. When you do that, obviously the local businesses will thrive."

Several supporters of the project addressed the board with their intentions at the last board meeting. Board member Edward Sandell voiced his support for the initiative.

"I was in favor before; now I support [the idea] even more," he said. "It costs taxpayers nothing right now."

Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone said the board has not yet decided whether to plan the project. Before making that decision, she said the board has to hear "loud and clear from the community" that it would be in support.

Burke, Reddinger and Slowey plan to address the board again at its 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday at the administrative building.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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