A group of alumni and former employees is objecting to Buffalo State College's decision to put off extensive repairs to the school's main sports field -- even though the project has received state funding.
Buffalo State officials are taking $2.57 million budgeted for Coyer Field improvements and spending it on renovations to the college's science building.
Bengal Club members argue the school should make the Coyer Field repairs now because the state's capital budget specifically included the money and work on the field is badly needed.
"It comes down to, you've got money to fix something that needs to be fixed," said Kevin R. Ryan, a former Buffalo State football player and the Bengal Club president.
Buffalo State administrators said the science building construction is the higher priority.
"I love football. But I've got to tell you, when we make choices like this, academics are going to win," said Carmine A. Grande, vice president for institutional advancement.
Nothing prevents State University of New York campuses from shifting money from one project to another after the system's capital budget is approved, SUNY officials said.
But Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, said he is concerned that colleges can make these changes after the State Legislature and Gov. George E. Pataki have approved their budget.
"I'm uncomfortable with it, and apparently SUNY central . . . has no problem and apparently it's a pretty common practice," said Hoyt, whose district includes Buffalo State.
Almost everyone agrees Coyer Field, which was built in the 1960s, needs a lot of work.
The natural grass field receives heavy use from football, men's and women's soccer, and women's lacrosse. The turf is in poor condition and the field suffers from drainage problems, Bengal Club members said, a situation that doesn't help the school recruit athletes.
In an ideal world, the college would install artificial turf, lights and stadium seating, said Fred Hartrick, a former school athletic director.
The college received money for more modest Coyer Field repairs in the state capital budget approved last year -- $1.99 million to replace the drainage and install new turf and $585,000 to help the city relocate a water line that runs under the field.
The college received $56 million in total, covering projects for the next five years.
School officials said they later identified new priorities.
The college's highest academic priority now is a complete renovation of the 40-year-old science building, a $50 million project, Grande said.
The school shifted $20 million in the capital budget to what will be a first phase of the science building work.
Colleges are allowed to shift money from one project to another for "critical maintenance," but SUNY administrators must review any proposed changes, SUNY spokeswoman Emily Dalton Smith said.
Ryan contacted Hoyt and State Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, among others, to question the college's decision.
Both Hoyt and Brown said they support the Coyer Field project, but judgments about college construction are best made on the individual campuses.
Grande could not say when the college will allocate money for Coyer. Athletics Director Jerry Boyes said he understands the decision to put off the work.