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Details surrounding proposed Hamburg sports complex are sketchy

Young hockey players could start the 2017 season skating on new ice at twin rinks in a multimillion-dollar sports complex in Hamburg, and the complex, with a field house and possibly a pool, could reshape recreation in the Southtowns for years to come.

Yet little is known publicly about the project.

The first public airing came last Monday, when the Hamburg Town Board approved a nondisclosure agreement with Nustadia Recreation of Hamilton, Ont., and D.V. Brown & Associates of the City of Tonawanda. The two parties are exploring the design, financing, construction and operation of a sports complex.

The location?

“Not known,” Supervisor Steven J. Walters said.

Who would own the property?

The town, according to the agreement.

Cost to the town?

Not known.

The town is hoping to get donations, “so there won’t be any cost to the town,” Councilwoman Cheryl Potter-Juda said.

If the facility runs in the red once it starts operating, Nustadia would pick up the first $67,000, then a contingency fund would be used before the town would have to step in, Walters said.

“If the complex cannot be self-sufficient, the town is essentially No. 3 in a three-step process of funding deficits for the facility,” Walters said. “There is some potential, but we’re working to limit that, if not avoid that all together.”

He didn’t say that, if the project is not built, the nondisclosure agreement approved on a 2-1 vote provides for some hefty town payments.

If the town decides not to go forward with the project after it receives preliminary information and the basic building design, it agreed to pay the developer $40,000. And if the town decides to pull the plug after getting the final plans, it must pay $520,000.

“We would never get to that. It would never get that far,” Potter-Juda said of the fees for breaking the agreement.

Council Member Michael P. Quinn Jr. voted against the nondisclosure agreement. He said he was given the agreement just before the meeting started.

“There’s some liabilities I just wasn’t willing to commit to,” he said.

Walters said the agreement protects the company from producing studies, plans and drawings, and having the town give that work to another firm.

The agreement says confidential information that should not be disclosed includes all financial, technical and other information, including all agreements, ideas, designs, project literature and information on prospective project members.

The nondisclosure agreement can act as a guide, but it cannot operate in a way that is inconsistent with the law, said Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government.

“The law determines what is public, not the private agreement,” he said.

There may be certain information that could be withheld under the Freedom of Information Law, but the town has the burden to prove whether disclosure would cause substantial injury to the company, he said.

It also would be inconceivable that every element of every document would fall into that scope, he said.

The project sounds similar to the public-private partnership voters shot down six years ago.

Jeff Walker, a town resident involved in the failed project, helped supply some financial details of the new venture when Walters talked with a Buffalo News reporter last week.

In 2009, the town proposed renovating the existing ice rink at the Nike Base, adding a second rink and an indoor all-purpose field house. Leaping Sports Facility Management, a partnership between ex-Buffalo Sabre Dave Andreychuk and Walker, was to be responsible for the construction and operation of the renovated facility, while the town would set goals and general direction of the company through a lease agreement.

The previous project would have needed the approval of the State Legislature because it involved the use of a public park. But it didn’t get that far, because residents voted against it in a 2009 referendum.

Residents will not get to vote on the new project, Walters said.

He said the company approached him last fall, and he told the Town Board about it over the winter.

“We’ve since had meetings, representatives of different departments, including our legal and finance department ... representatives of the board,” Walters said during the Town Board meeting. “We had a work session that we started an hour early one day where this group came in and gave a presentation.”

That work session, May 11, was conducted in a closed executive session that was called to discuss the sale or lease of property. Walters said the town also met with representatives of some youth groups about the project.

“This isn’t something that just happened out of the blue,” he said.

It’s also not the only double ice rink-field house proposal before the town.

Two 19 Sports, which is part of the Kaleta Group, has a proposal before the Planning Board to build a 165,000-square-foot complex at 5661 Camp Road, site of the former, now empty, Calkins junkyard.

The Kaleta Group also includes Patrick Kaleta, an NHL unrestricted free agent who played with the Buffalo Sabres, his father, Tom, his uncle, Michael, and Ron Zimmerman, the HITS Foundation and Two 19 Sports Inc. Their proposal includes two rinks, two indoor fields and locker rooms, snack shop, pro shop, business offices, HITS Foundation offices and educational rooms, workout areas, day care and summer camps.

The future of the town’s aging ice arena on Lakeview Road seems to depend on the future of the new project. The town was going to borrow $385,000 last week for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for the rink, but the board pulled that resolution.

“If that is built, we would probably convert our ice arena to a different type of sports facility,” town Recreation Director Martin Denecke said of the Nustadia proposal.

He said the town wants to continue operating its current programs, like learn-to-skate and public skating, and offer new programs in the new facilities.

The company is working on studies to determine what amenities the complex should have, and if it is feasible financially. Walters said the public will be able to review the report made by the developer.

“We’re going forward but it will be baby steps,” Potter-Juda said.