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County Executive Joel A. Giambra wants to study the future of Erie Community College, prompting some officials to speculate that the college's North Campus in Amherst could be up for sale.

But that would be a terrible idea, according to Amherst soccer enthusiasts.

Fears that ECC officials are considering selling the North Campus at Youngs Road and Wehrle Drive have prompted some members of the Amherst Soccer Association to mobilize in opposition.

According to one spokesman, the group relies heavily on four playing fields at the North Campus in order to operate programs and games for more than 2,200 youths.

"Without those facilities right now, we'd have to put a significant number of players on waiting lists. We couldn't continue," Mark J. Deyle, association past president, said late last week.

Deyle and other soccer enthusiasts have hastily collected several hundred signatures on a petition that they expect to present at the Amherst Town Board meeting tonight.

And they already have one strong ally -- Council Member William L. Kindel, who has called on the county to donate the soccer fields to the town if the property is sold.

According to Deyle, the soccer league not only makes daily use of the college's soccer fields for games involving thousands of young people ages 8 to 19, it also holds an annual three-day tournament that draws 162 teams from out of town.

One study indicates that the Amherst Invitational Memorial Day Tournament brings as much as $3 million in annual revenue to hotels and other facilities in Western New York.

"If we were a convention, we'd be one of the larger conventions in Erie County," Deyle said, "and it's all run by volunteers."

Deyle also said Amherst has been the soccer league's ally in the past and supporters want town officials to take a leading roll in making sure the playing fields are preserved.

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