Update, Feb. 16: South Buffalo Development spokesperson Phil Pantano issued the following statement in regard to some of the claims made Saturday by M/ilesports owner Mike Damico:
“While we appreciate the enthusiasm our prospective tenant has for the many positive attributes of the site, any public comments made in regard to development beyond the proposed athletic facility should be disregarded. South Buffalo Development will continue to own the property and we alone will determine the future of any additional development at the site.”
A previous version of this article went into detail about Damico's planned concessions and construction timeline regarding the Elk Street site, but those particulars are not included in South Buffalo Development's proposal that the City of Buffalo will review.
Medaille College president Dr. Ken Macur and M/ilesports founder Mike Damico have agreed to a 10-year collaboration where the Mavericks' soccer and lacrosse teams, both men's and women's, will practice and play games at the prospective indoor and outdoor facilities at the corner of Elk and Orlando streets in downtown Buffalo.
The City of Buffalo has yet to formally approve the project, which has been laid out by South Buffalo Development, LLC.
Should the city OK the plans, a major beneficiary of the new facility would be the exceptional Medaille men's soccer team, which returned to the NCAA Division 3 Tournament last season for the first time since 2012.
Micky Blythe's Mavericks knocked off rival Penn State Behrend in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference finals, in penalty kicks, before falling in the first round of the national tournament to Otterbein.
Further relevant for the local soccer community is the new home site for M/ilesports, the adult recreational sports organization, founded in 1999, that has hosted outdoor summer and fall soccer leagues, as well as coed touch football, for several years at city fields such as Rumsey, Front Park and Tifft. New softball and volleyball leagues also are in the works.
The local recreational sports organization will make use of the fields heavily May through August.
"We thought a turf, lighted field would serve the community in a big way," Damico said. "We wanted to build that right downtown, so it's accessible to everybody."
Here are 10 things to know about the collaboration, the plans and what they mean for Buffalo soccer:
*WHY IT WAS NECESSARY: Medaille called All-High Stadium, behind Bennett High School, its home field for several years before sharing D'Youville College's Dobson Field in 2017. Macur was grateful for a place to play but still sought a more exclusive environment for the Mavericks.
"Because we are landlocked on our campus, we don't own facilities or land big enough to house our fields," the president explained.
"Logistics were the challenge [last year], but I really want to be on record of being appreciative of the folks at D'Youville, because they squeezed us in and pushed their own practices aside. It really was a community service to us. But now we can have times booked at the beginning of the season."
*HOW IT HAPPENED: The pairing was a little fortuitous, as Damico, looking for partners for the facility's use, cold-called Macur's office. The founder of M/ilesports sympathized with Medaille's plight, considering they'd been fighting similar battles for years.
"I live less than a half-mile from Medaille, so I did know they played some of their games at D'Youville," Damico admitted. "They were like us, getting space where they could."
Medaille is entitled to 1,000 hours, use of the NCAA regulation pitch for soccer matches and the indoor facility for training, or shelter in times of bad weather.
*FRUSTRATING HISTORY: Medaille Athletics will still need to trust its small fleet of vans to transport students from campus to the new digs, but schedule creation and recruiting should benefit.
"It's always a goal of mine to make sure our Division 3 athletes are supported in a really good way," Macur said. "When [the athletes] don't have their own facility, they know the reality. They know what we're trying to do, and they've been great over the years in dealing with it.
"Now we'll have a first-rate facility that will allow us to recruit and retain really strong players."
*FACILITY SPECS: It's important to note the indoor facility won't truly compete with Sahlen's, which can handle 11-vs.-11 and 9-vs.-9 games, and Sportsplex, which has two new turf fields for 7-vs.-7 and boasts the top men's indoor league in the area, in terms of quality of play.
M/ilesports experimented with a 6-vs.-6 indoor soccer league this winter at the new Nardin facility off of Hertel, so it's possible that setup will transfer nicely to the Downtown Sports Complex, which should measure 70 yards by 30 yards.
The outdoor field will be turf and feature lights for night games. Bleachers will allow for spectator seating. Damico expects there to be ample practice and warmup areas surrounding the pitch.
*FAVORABLE LOCATION: The new facility will be accessible from the Smith Street exit of the 190 North and the Elk Street exit of the 190 South, roughly five minutes from Canalside and 10-15 from Medaille's campus.
*SUMMER TOURNAMENTS: Red Bull, the international energy drink brand, is a sponsor of the venue and will offer six tournaments this summer, including 5-vs.-5 soccer, touch volleyball, kickball, softball and touch football. The soccer tournament is expected to be in the first two weeks of August.
*FRESH START FOR WOMEN'S PROGRAM: Former University at Buffalo player Angela Nicholas-Tolsma was hired late last year to oversee the women's program; Blythe had coached both the men's and women's programs in the three years since he took the gig. The women have won just one game in the last three seasons, and perhaps the new coach and new facility will inject life into a bleak situation.
*TIMELINE: South Buffalo Development hopes construction can begin in the spring. In an ideal situation, M/ilesports would start play with men's softball on May 1, then conduct its adult sports leagues throughout the summer until Medaille takes over on Aug. 15.
*PRO SOFTBALL TEAM: Damico also teased Buffalo's participation in a New York State professional softball league, founded by an owner out of Troy, N.Y., that would include teams in Rochester and Syracuse. Although he did not disclose the name of the new league, Damico noted that he would run the organization, and play is expected to begin next summer.