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TAX-EXEMPT DOME NOT UNFAIR, MCKEGNEY ARGUES

Former Buffalo Sabre Tony McKegney denied Friday that permission to build a sports dome on city property in North Tonawanda would give his investor's group a competitive advantage over Sportsplex, an existing indoor practice facility in the city.

"Our proposal (to build a dome on city property adjoining the municipal Deerwood Golf Course) wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime," he said.

While the McKegney group would not be paying property tax, it would pay the city perhaps $50,000 to $60,000 a year to lease the property, McKegney said.

Jim May, an owner of Sportsplex and general manager of the Buffalo Blizzard soccer team, told the North Tonawanda Common Council on Wednesday that Sportsplex is considering building a 70,000-square-foot addition to the front of the existing facility on Ridge Road.

However, if the city approves the tax-exempt McKegney dome, Sportsplex may change its mind and sell the existing 90,000-square-foot Sportsplex.

May said he doesn't mind competition, but does object to the dome on tax-exempt city property while Sportsplex pays more than $50,000 a year in local taxes on its private property.

May contends that would give the dome interest an unfair competitive advantage over Sportsplex.

Both groups have estimated they would spend $1.5 million on their projects.

McKegney said his group would be paying approximately the same amount in lease payments to the city that Sportsplex would be paying in taxes.

McKegney also disagreed with May's contention that the McKegney group could fold up its fabric dome any time and move it elsewhere while Sportsplex would be investing in a permanent, taxable structure.

However, McKegney pointed out that only $500,000 of its $1.5 million investment is in the dome itself.

The remaining $1 million would finance the building of a new pro shop at Deerwood, connected by permanent covered walkways to the 200-by-250-foot, 60-foot-high dome.

While the dome was originally proposed as an all-weather indoor driving range in conjunction with the golf course, plans now call for the dome to serve as an indoor practice facility for most sports, just as Sportsplex.

The city's 18-hole Deerwood Course is being expanded by nine holes.

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