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LAWMAKERS MULL RAZING ALL HIGH

It depicted Wrigley Field in the film "The Natural" and has played host to Thanksgiving Day championship football games since 1927.

But at Buffalo's 85-year-old All High Stadium, tradition and history are eclipsed by decay. The north stands are unsafe and fenced off, and the rest rooms aren't functional. Some 3,500 spectators on Thanksgiving were directed not to jump around too much so they wouldn't chip any concrete.

"It's a disgrace to the Buffalo Public School system," said James Williams, a Buffalo School Board member. "A terrible disgrace."

That's despite an ongoing $250,000 restoration project at the facility, which is behind Bennett High School on Main Street.

So when Williams and County Legislator George A. Holt Jr., D-Buffalo, this week proposed tearing down the stadium and building a new one on the same site, they found immediate allies.

"All High Stadium cries out for a fundamental rebuild," said Anthony Luppino, chairman of the School Board's building and grounds committee. "I think we should get everyone together and try to figure out how to make it a reality."

Luppino said he expects to ask Williams and Holt to explain their proposal during a School Board work session.

"It sounds wonderful and our kids deserve it," said Helene Kramer, School Board president. "Our athletic facilities are either poor or non-existent because we haven't had a great deal of capital."

And there lies the problem: money. How much would it cost and where would the funds come from?

Holt said he will chair an eight-person committee that will explore the possibility of securing federal, state, county and city funds, while seeking to build community support.

He and Williams envision a 10,000-seat stadium with lights, locker room facilities, concession stands and a new scoreboard.

"No one is putting an emphasis on adequate athletic facilities that round out a kid's experience," Holt said. "Until someone starts emphasizing a problem, it doesn't come to the forefront."

Four thousand seats in the existing south grandstands have been reconstructed and painted, and another 1,000 will be replaced, Ms. Kramer said. The $250,000 project also includes brick and concrete repairs.

"It's nice that we can spend a quarter-of-a-million dollars, but that's only a Band-Aid," Luppino.

Although no funds have been appropriated, the School Board also hopes to eventually tear down the north stands and build an all-weather track adjacent to the existing football field.

"The administration's position is that we are making improvements to All High Stadium, and the point of it is to refurbish the south end seating and then demolish the north bleachers," said Andy Maddigan, a school district spokesman.

"If George Holt is about to say he's got money from the state to build a new stadium, I think the board would view that much differently."

Williams said that even if funds are not immediately available for a new facility, the school system would be better off with no stadium than with the present facility.

"We're simply saying to tear it down," he said. "We don't want to go through the business of setting up committees to study the problem, and encounter all kinds of delays. Nothing has happened in all these years."

Instead, Williams said, football games could be held at Johnnie B. Wiley Stadium at Jefferson Avenue and Dodge Street.

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