Niagara Gazette

March 4, 2013

Residents speak out on proposed rec center

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Some speakers at town hall were blatant in their support Monday, while others took a less enthusiastic approach in dealing with a proposed Recreation and Senior Center.

More than 20 speakers took to the microphone with the town board looking for input about its project still in the early stages. 

Many spoke of impact on family, the way it'll keep children playing in Lewiston rather than having to travel to Elma or North Tonawanda for soccer or football. Some wondered when the adult leagues would start, looking to take advantage themselves, rather than just leaving it to the youth.

"In terms of the big picture ... I think the fact everyone here is overwhelmingly in support of this means it's bigger than any political agenda," Jon DiBernardo said. "A place like this is going to generate income. I'm not here as a business owner, I'm here because I want to be playing here. I've got $500 to put my Water Street Landing team there."

Proposed to be located on the front yard of Lewiston-Porter High School, the recreation and senior center, if approved, would take up 140,000-square-feet and provide indoor facilities for almost every sport played by children in the area, including lacrosse, basketball and soccer. Naturally, the meeting brought many of the area's coaches to speak in support of the project.

Kevin Jaruszewski, Lewiston-Porter United Teachers president, is one of those coaches, overseeing both junior varsity girls basketball and soccer at Lew-Port. He said the center has no negatives and would benefit almost every resident of the town, even those who don't live within walking distance of the district.

"The benefits are enormous and it's right in our front yard," he said. "It's a win-win. There really is no negative. With the revenue generated by this enormous program maybe something could be worked out."

What needs to be worked out, he said, is transportation to and from the facility, whether it be seniors or children. Sanborn resident Vicki Bell, though expressing support for the idea of a facility in Lewiston, was not happy with the location.

"It's a great facility and it would be great for the residents of Lewiston and great for the residents of Youngstown," she said. "But you're forgetting there's 5,000-plus residents of Lewiston that live in Sanborn."

Bell's weren't the only critical comments expressed at the meeting. Paulette Glasgow, a former town board member, also addressed the board, reiterating her concerns expressed at a meeting held last week about the openness of the process.

She also questioned the size of the proposed facility. Instead, she pondered, why not scale it down to build something similar to the Sono Field House, in Norwalk, Conn. This facility, she said, allows several sports, including soccer, to be played at the same time while only taking up 52,000-square-feet of space.

"For all those golfers out there, they have a golf simulator and batting cages," she said. "We can build this with the money from the greenway fund right now. I am not questioning the need for such a project and I never have. I just hope you scale it down."