Niagara Gazette — Councilman Glenn Choolokian thinks America's pastime could be an economic driver for the Cataract City.
Choolokian is pushing a plan to build a sports complex on open park land that would serve three of the four city little leagues and act as a venue for major tournaments.
"There's such a draw for little league baseball," Choolokian said.
Choolokian, who played baseball growing up and has children who play the sport now, said people involved in little league have been talking about improving the facilities for decades.
"Everybody always talked about the (condition of the facilities)," Choolokian said of his playing days. "I'm kind of hearing the same things over again."
The proposed complex would include:
• Three baseball diamonds, one with lights and two without. All diamonds would have permanent home run fences;
• Two batting cages;
• Two bullpens;
• A multi-purpose soccer field;
• A centrally-located concession stand.
Choolokian said that in creating a state-of-the-art facility the city would be able to attract tournaments with hundreds of teams, bringing thousands of people to Niagara Falls to shop, dine and visit attractions.
And with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration investing in the expansion of the tourism industry in the city the sports complex could fit into that larger vision, he added.
"We've got the Falls here, we've got the casino here," Choolokian said. "This isn't a savior for Niagara Falls, but it's another piece to the puzzle."
Choolokian said he loosely estimates the cost for the sports complex to be between $1 million and $2 million, money that he believes could be set said from the city's casino revenues.
The infrastructure project would serve the community, attract visitors and last for decades, making good use of the funds, Choolokian said.
"It's going to last 50, 60, 70 years," Choolokian said.
Choolokian recently met with little league presidents and city officials to discuss the sports complex.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who attended the meeting, said a sports complex would have the potential to draw people to the city for tournaments, but there are still many questions to be answered.
"There's a huge amount of homework to be done to investigate the various aspects that are involved," Dyster said.
The city would have to determine where the complex would be located, whether there would only be one complex for all three leagues and get hard cost estimates before determining whether the project would be economically feasible, Dyster said.
And the city has to consider investments in facilitates that have already happened or are being planned before deciding whether there is a need for a new sports complex, he added.
The board of education is planning new sports facilities - including baseball diamonds - and control of Sal Maglie Stadium reverts back to the city this year.
"We want to make sure that whatever we do is compatible with whatever other investments are going on around the city," Dyster said.
Dyster said his administration, along with Choolokian and little league representatives, will continue to explore the idea.
"I think we need to do market studies and assess the economic value of these facilities," he said.
Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257