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Common Council to review sports complex plan for Elk Street

The Common Council next week will review a plan by a Buffalo developer to create a new adult sports complex near the Buffalo River, providing a home for various team sports and a place for adults to get some recreation in the city.

Jon Williams' South Buffalo Development LLC is working on a proposal for a Downtown Sports Center on 15.8 acres along Elk Street.

That's part of the larger 21.7-acre project at the Schoellkopf Power House, which is being converted into a mixed-use facility with residential, industrial and commercial space.

Plans by Carmina Wood Morris PC for the $1.6 million sports facility call for a one-story, 26,400-square-foot field house at 427 Elk, with a 61-space parking lot, and a 300-by-300-foot outdoor athletic field at 85 Lee St. The property also includes parts of 98 Maurice St. and 229 Elk.

According to the application submitted to the city, the indoor complex with an artificial turf field would serve adult and college teams for soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and "other similar sport activities." Limited refreshments would be available from an indoor snack counter, which would have a liquor license to serve beer and wine.

Schoellkopf Power House renovation may include soccer fields

The outdoor field would be used similarly but more for actual games, handling adult or college soccer, softball, adult flag football and other sports as needed, the application continued. It also could be divided to allow two separate games to be played at once.

The indoor facility – located on the corner of Elk and Orlando streets – would be capable of handling up to three teams practicing at once, for a total of about 50 to 75 adults at any given time, according to the documents. About 35 to 50 adults would be expected on the outdoor field at any time.

So when all fields are being used, a maximum of 50 cars are expected, according to the application. Adult teams are expected to drive there, while college teams would probably come by bus, officials wrote. Besides the planned parking, an additional 50 spaces could be created if needed.

The 12-month construction project would affect 4.8 acres of the larger property. The new building would be constructed of brick metal core wall panels, with precast concrete sill, a metal roof and a base of concrete masonry unit. Two entrances are planned, but no windows. Landscaping will include grass, shrubs and 17 street trees.

The project was recommended by the Council's Legislation Committee, and will be taken up by the full Council on Tuesday.

Williams had been negotiating with Michael Damico, an organizer of sports leagues, to run the complex with his company, M/ilesports, as the lead tenant. Damico, a Hamburg High School computer technology teacher, has been coordinating football, soccer, softball and kickball games at various fields throughout the city for more than 20 years.

Founded in 1999 and based in Buffalo, his company – M/ilesports – sponsors adult leagues, with both men's and co-ed teams playing at Delaware Park, the Nardin Fieldhouse, the Adpro Fieldhouse in Orchard Park, and other parks. But he had long dreamed of having a single location to consolidate those efforts, and hoped to work with Williams to bring that to fruition.

M/ilesports even signed a sponsorship and partnership agreement with Red Bull to run six events at the new facility over the summer – two soccer tournaments, two volleyball tournaments, and one each for touch football and kickball. And Damico had said the fields could be used for high school and youth sports, in addition to the adult leagues.

But after agreeing to tentative terms for a contract, the talks fell through and Damico is no longer involved, said South Buffalo Development spokesman Phil Pantano.

However, Pantano said many of the same plans will still continue. Medaille College has already agreed to use the new facility for three of its own sports – men's and women's soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. The school signed on for 1,000 hours of playing time over 10 years, and Williams is working to sign a more formal agreement with them.

The new sports center will represent an addition to Williams' planned $4.2 million mixed-use complex at the former Schoellkopf manufacturing property. Also known as the Buffalo Color site, it's located across the street at 229 Elk and 83 Lee St.

Williams and his partners are converting the 36,270-square-foot Power House and Connector buildings into a combination of office, residential and industrial space. Williams owns Ontario Specialty Contracting, which will move its headquarters to the complex.

The project, originally $7 million in value, had previously included renovation of another 25,000-square-foot building, the former Ice House, but that was demolished instead because it had deteriorated beyond repair.

Additional warehouses of 35,000 square feet and 60,000 square-feet, respectively, could also be constructed on the site in the future, according to design plans.

The developers are seeking the "planned unit development" designation from the Common Council to allow for a much wider variety of uses than the property's current heavy-industrial zoning would permit, while promoting "a coordinated site and building design." That could include multifamily housing, assembly, a school, alcohol sales, restaurants, live entertainment, amusement facilities, retail, self-storage, offices or hotels.

A PUD was already approved last summer for the primary redevelopment, but the developers are now seeking to add the sports complex to the mix. The project still needs to come back to the city Planning Board - which reviewed it April 9 - for final site plan approval, possibly on April 23.

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