Ciminelli Real Estate Corps' successful bid to manage the future of the Women's and Children's Hospital space on Elmwood Avenue is a terrific development for Buffalo soccer.
Delaware Soccer Club is one of the partners in the $122 million project, dubbed "QueensLight," which calls for a full-size outdoor soccer field stationed above an indoor facility at the north end of the campus, among other plans for apartments, condos, an EduKids daycare center and a second site for Tapestry Charter School.
Although Kaleida Health's board of directors has chosen Ciminelli's proposal over four others, QueensLight must still earn approval through several other channels. Read Steve Watson's Strictly Business post for further information.
Regardless, winning the initial bid unlocks an exciting future for more than just soccer in the city of Buffalo.
"[The news] is fantastic for ourselves at Delaware Soccer Club, but also for soccer in general and for our city," said Rudy Pompert, the club's director of soccer, on Thursday. "People are talking about Buffalo's resurgence -- cranes everywhere, apartment buildings going up -- but these [residents] will need something to do. Projects that include recreation are good for everyone."
Through Delaware Soccer Club's house and travel leagues, roughly 1,800 kids are involved in youth soccer -- you've probably seen miniature athletes in bright pinnies darting around Delaware Park as you travel down the Scajaquada Expressway or jog around the ring road. The organization, headquartered at 1424 Hertel Ave., has nearly doubled in size over the last two years, and Buffalo's lack of indoor and outdoor soccer facilities has made accommodating this growth difficult.
The proposed soccer park will be just south of West Utica Street and east of Elmwood, bordering on a planned parking garage (see the image above). The renderings released in late January indicated the facility will be 61,000 square feet; no further designs have been released since.
To cater to the youth programs, the outdoor field could be split into two under-12 fields or six 4-vs.-4 fields. The prospective indoor facility would likely not be full-size, but suitable for 8-vs.-8 or 9-vs.-9 games or training sessions.
As an example of a similar project, Pompert pointed to the Field House at Chelsea Piers in New York City, an 82,000-square-foot facility in Manhattan, just blocks away from Madison Square Garden, noting that "inventive" approaches like in Chelsea and now in Buffalo can help express the energy and activity in a city.
Although the outdoor pitch is innovative, the prospect of the city's first indoor soccer facility is a boon to local soccer.
"The serious [soccer-playing] kid plays club from Nov. 1 until the end of the July," Pompert explained, "and from November to March their training and programs are all indoors because of the weather. We need facilities for these months, especially when cities 150 to 200 miles south can play outdoor year-round.
"An indoor space would allow us to catch up a lot with those cities and offer programs to help the kids thrive."
To address the club's desperate need for space in the immediate future, DSC has recently partnered with Nardin Academy to use its indoor squash and soccer facility, built behind the K-Mart near the intersection of Elmwood and Hertel avenues, which boasts a 75-foot-by-140-foot section of field turf. The club hopes to be using the facility by Nov. 1 and wouldn't stop if and when the Ciminelli project is fully approved and completed.
"The Nardin facility is just the beginning," Pompert said. "The Ciminelli project will fill another void that's still there."
Currently, Sahlen Sports Park in Elma, Epic Center in Williamsville and Sportsplex in North Tonawanda are the most popular three indoor soccer facilities in the area, all of which are located roughly 20 minutes from the city center. Each of the three offers sports other than soccer, too.
While the Ciminelli project still faces some hurdles -- and it's entirely possible that not all of the originally proposed aspects are included in the final iteration -- Delaware Soccer Club's presence in the selected bid is one positive step for Buffalo soccer.
-- In a previous conversation in January, Pompert mentioned that the outdoor field likely wouldn't work for FC Buffalo due to the lack of suitable seating.
-- Adult leagues would likely be in the plans, too, which would benefit the nearby bars and restaurants serving as post-match hangouts, Pompert said.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who probably overused the words "project" and "facility," at firstname.lastname@example.org