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Stadium issue stirs controversy

A proposal to move Clint Small Stadium to the high school campus is generating controversy in the Tonawanda City School District, with district officials attempting to reassure residents about the capital project during a meeting of the School Board on Tuesday night.

The district is planning to upgrade to its athletic campus at the Tonawanda High/Middle School complex that revolves around a new football stadium there. The current Clint Small Stadium, which is isolated from all other district properties, would be used for baseball, softball and soccer.

Thus far, the district has been working with an architectural firm for a design of the proposed capital project, but there are very little specifics about the total expense involved. Officials said the scope of the project would be dependent on how much state funding they would receive for it, which could be up to 89.9 percent of the total.

"We continue to proceed [and] we're trying to do this step-by-step-by-step," said Superintendent Whitney Vantine. "We don't know if the state is going to fund us, but once we know that, we can have incredible conversations."

Dennis Smilinich, who is married to board member Jackie Smilinich, questioned administrators on details about the project, as well as why Tonawanda is prioritizing the football stadium while another proposal to consolidate the district's three elementary schools into one building has been put on hold.

"It doesn't make sense to build a new stadium when we need windows and roofs [for the schools]," Dennis Smilinich said.

Vantine defended the decision to proceed with the football stadium project first.

"We think this is feasible at this time," the superintendent said. "The majority [of the board] felt that we should move ahead on the stadium now and come back to the single campus [project]."

Board members also responded to many of the rumors surrounding the project, many of which have been discussed on Internet forums and social networks. Before the capital project can proceed, residents must approve the proposal, and several officials noted they plan on a bigger public campaign to inform the community.

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