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STATE PLAN ON GAMES STILL VAGUE BORROWING COSTS RAISE QUESTIONS

Gov. Cuomo has instituted a plan to keep the World University Games on schedule, but the plan lacks many significant details, officials said Tuesday.

A key question is who will pay the cost of borrowing nearly $25 million to build a track and field stadium and to expand seating for the Games' swimming competition.

Cuomo proposed Monday that both facilities be constructed on the North Campus of the University at Buffalo in Amherst, with financing provided by the state Dormitory Authority. The state will repay those bonds, possibly through the State University's budget -- a prospect university officials approach cautiously.

The governor's proposal did not focus on the $25 million in financing, but on the $2.3 million the Dormitory Authority will provide next month to plan and design the stadium and seating for the swimming facility.

After a five-month delay, the Games cannot wait much longer and hope to have the stadium ready by the spring of 1993, officials in Albany and Buffalo said Tuesday.

The Dormitory Authority was selected because it can tap its reserve accounts immediately. The authority, which is headed by Buffalo native William Hassett Jr., had been considered by Cuomo aides as early as December.

But meetings involving Cuomo aides; Hassett; John Egan, the Dormitory Authority's executive director; officials of the State University, and others began in earnest after legislative leaders refused to appropriate money for the Games.

Whether the Dormitory Authority actually constructs the stadium and expands the swimming facility remains a question, the governor's aides say. But legislators, SUNY officials and others also question whether the authority is the proper agency.

Eager for new projects, the authority wants to finance and construct the Games facilities. But university officials would prefer that their own agency, the State University Construction Fund, manage the construction.

Meanwhile, Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, D-Buffalo, is concerned that the use of either agency might prevent the state from locating some of the World Games facilities off the UB campus. Eve wants some kind of new facility in the Buffalo inner city, such as the former site of War Memorial.

That might require financing by the state Urban Development Corp.

The debt service on $25 million could amount to as much as $1 million a year for 30 years.

SUNY officials say they will seek guarantees that the state will provide enough money each year to pay the interest and other costs of the stadium.

Behind-the-scenes activity is credited for Cuomo's announcement of the aid package.

Planning and design for the stadium -- a centerpiece for the Games -- is at a crucial stage.

"We had to have it this month," said Ron Ferguson, the Games' executive director. "Next month would have put us in a bad position," in terms of time and negotiations on the stadium's construction.

Time also is getting tight for alterations necessary at UB's swimming facility to bring it into line with World Games specifications.

So how can $27.3 million in public financing be obtained in a tight budget year?

Ronald Coan, a member of the Games executive committee, headed a 15-member group that began meeting last year to devise a strategy for public financing. Throughout the fall and winter, the panel heard presentations from several state agencies they thought might be possible sources.

At one point, the UDC seemed to be the best choice. The agency had flexibility and experience.

"Frankly, we were looking to replicate the Pilot Field model," Coan said.

But in the frantic scrambling of this year's protracted state budget negotiations, another possibility began to stand out seriously above the rest last month -- the Dormitory Authority.

Since February, the struggle to get a commitment on public funding has been an intense and almost daily effort for World Games officials.

"There were so many convolutions that I don't think anybody can recount it," Coan said.

But he, like others involved in the task, credits one person in particular for influencing the governor -- County Executive Gorski.

"If there were one person -- through phone calls, keeping the pressure on -- he was the guy that did it," Coan said. "He cashed in some chips on this one."

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