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Effort would keep ball fields from sale

Niagara County has 64 acres of land for sale on Davison Road, but Lockport's three legislators want to make sure the land used by the An-Jo Baseball League and other sports groups isn't part of that.

The County Legislature's Public Works Committee tonight will discuss a resolution to keep the 17.6 acres used for sports out of any potential sale.

County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said Friday he hasn't heard of the county receiving any offers for the land since it was put up for sale two years ago.

Legislators Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, and W. Keith McNall and Richard E. Updegrove, both R-Lockport, introduced a resolution last week to protect the ball fields.

McNall said, "We're hoping to have enough support to keep those sports fields out of Parcel 2," as the land up for sale has been designated.

Besides the An-Jo League, an organization of long standing in Lockport, the fields are used by the Lockport Soccer Club, the Lockport Rugby Club and the Challenger Baseball League. The latter is a league for children with disabilities.

Nemi said, "More than 1,000 people use [the land] every year."

He said if the An-Jo League, which has a five-year lease that runs out at the end of 2010, can keep control of the site, it could lead to some bigger things.

The Inferno Baseball League has sponsored youth tournaments in the Lockport-Amherst area the past two years, bringing in more than 100 teams from Canada as well as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Minnesota and other states.

"When they had the two tournaments here, you couldn't get a hotel room in Lockport," Nemi said.

He said there's been talk that the operators of the New Era sports complex on South Transit Road in Pendleton might invest in improvements at the Davison Road site that could make it a main location for Inferno tournaments. Eventually, the land could be sold for that purpose.

"It could become a win-win situation if this group comes in," Nemi said.

Last year, the Legislature approved the sale of 16.5 acres of land, including the former county infirmary, later known as the Switzer Building, to Christian Academy of Western New York for $375,000.

However, the deal has yet to close. Friday, Lewis and two assistant county attorneys declined to say why.

It is known that there was a question over whether the land had to be annexed to the City of Lockport from the Town of Lockport -- their border runs through the 16.5-acre parcel -- and that there have been environmental issues, including the removal of an underground fuel tank last year.


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