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Sal Maglie Stadium in Niagara Falls gets a new life

NIAGARA FALLS – The city put out the call to bring in a new operator/manager for the vacant Sal Maglie Stadium at the end of 2015.

Although there were a few inquiries, only one vendor submitted a formal response, but it was a home run.

The City Council last week unanimously awarded Pitch and Hit Events the license to manage the stadium.

Council Chairman Andrew Touma said, “If we don’t find a viable person to run this, we mothball it. We tear it down and we have to pay for the expense of it.”

Touma said the agreement will generate revenues for local businesses and also save the city management costs. He said the hope is that, down the road, the agreement will result in profit-sharing for the city.

Neal Turvey, chief operating officer of Pitch and Hit Events and senior director of the Niagara Thunder Wolves, said his firm will be ready to go as soon as the three-year agreement begins on April 1. Pitch and Hit Events will pay the city $1 annually for rent, but take over all operations and maintenance, which was estimated at $150,000.

A negotiated portion of stadium revenues also will be paid to the city as part of the agreement.

Turvey said Pitch and Hits Events was created in 2009, hosting tournaments at Darien Lake, but now it hosts events in more than 40 locations throughout the region. A majority of participants are from outside of Niagara Falls, but Turvey said he believes the name recognition of Niagara Falls will draw even more teams to the area for tournaments and encourage overnight stays in Niagara Falls.

“Our intent is to prepare Sal Maglie Stadium as the centerpiece,” he said. “We plan to replace the scoreboard early in this agreement. We are dedicated. We are motivated to be a great part of Niagara Falls and present Sal Maglie Stadium brilliantly to every visitor.”

A letter from Joe Maglie, son of baseball great Sal Maglie, praised the choice of Pitch and Hits. The letter was read into the record on Monday by City of Niagara Falls Purchasing Agent Johnny Destino.

“They have the willingness and the desire to invest the time and effort and manpower needed to showcase Sal Maglie Stadium as a place where the youth of Niagara Falls and the region want to play,” Maglie wrote. “If my father were alive today, he would freely offer his full support to the Thunder Wolves program.”

He noted his father’s involvement with youth leagues and said Pitch and Hit Events and the Niagara Thunder Wolves are in a position to continue his father’s legacy.

Turvey, who lives in Lockport, said for the past 34 years he has coached at every level from Little League to college. He said the goal of Pitch and Hit Events is to bring major championships to this area.

He said the program started with 45 players and has grown to 350, with teams in softball, baseball and basketball. It hosted its first Niagara summer event in 2012 with 108 teams, growing to 400 teams this summer.

He said the organization currently runs 16 weeks of programs in the summer and fall.

He said Pitch and Hit will move some of its current programming from Lockport and Niagara County Community College in Sanborn to Niagara Falls, but also will expand its offerings.

The stadium had been operated by the Niagara Falls School District until the district constructed its own stadium at Niagara Falls High School in 2012-13.

In 2014 Niagara Power, which has a pre-existing contract with the school district, played games at Sal Maglie and continued to use the stadium after the 2014 season when the city took over operations.

Pitch and Hit Events is active with partners Niagara International Sports and Entertainment, Niagara Jr. Thunderwolves, North Tonawanda Babe Ruth, Lockport An/Jo Youth Baseball, Lockport Little League, Town of Niagara, Town of Cambria, Pembroke Youth Association and Town of Batavia, as well as regional school programs in North Tonawanda, Lewiston-Porter, Wilson, Byron-Bergen, Oakfield-Alabama, and Alexander; with crossover alliances with Northtowns Soccer Club, Niagara County Volleyball Club; and corporate event supporters Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, the Dugout of Lockport and Darien Lake Theme Park.

The plan is to use Sal Maglie Stadium for youth baseball tournaments, youth baseball/softball camps and clinics, adult baseball games, soccer tournaments, field hockey tournaments, basketball in the parking lot, events and community concerts, athletic showcases and combines, community youth festivals and a fall modified baseball league.

According to the proposal, the city will determine which uses are acceptable.