Niagara Gazette

Tim's Take

August 21, 2010

TIM'S TAKE: Can Hamilton learn from our mistakes?

COMMENTARY

NIAGARA FALLS — Ah, there’s nothing like helping a neighbor, right? Glad to be of service, Hamilton.

That might be the case in the nearby city of Hamilton, Ontario, where they’re attempting to use the blunders from previous Western New York projects as a harbinger of potential pitfalls that come from failed urban planning.

As part of the 2015 Pan American Games, which will be based in Toronto, Canada’s Steel City is expected to get a new stadium, built partially with taxpayer funds, and partially by the eventual and permanent tenant — the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The team’s president, Bob Young, wants the facility to be built in the sticks, on an open patch of land as close to the city center as, say, Orchard Park is to Buffalo.

See where we’re going with this?

The city, meanwhile, would prefer a location in one of the downtrodden districts, a means of stimulating inner-city growth rather that pushing more economic development to the already affluent suburbs.

And although they haven’t singled out the Bills’ current venue in negotiations, it’s interesting to note that an opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator written by author Storm Cunningham used a specific failing from our area — the move of the University at Buffalo to its spacious, but secluded Amherst campus — as justification for the stadium’s downtown locale.

“Many communities are crippled by a bad, old decision regarding a key facility,” Cunningham wrote. “In the 1960s, Buffalo located the main campus of the University at Buffalo in a sprawl suburb rather than downtown. City leaders have bemoaned that tragedy for decades as their downtown withered.”

Cunningham went on to cite stadium success stories in Indianapolis and Baltimore (although he could have included Pittsburgh and Cleveland as well) as being key pieces to downtown renaissances. He also used an interesting quote from four-time Indianapolis mayor Bill Hudnut, who said, “You can’t be a suburb of nothing.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Back here in Western New York, where our gaffes have forced us to stalk retailers like Bass Pro, we long ago missed the window to put pieces downtown. The majority of college students in the area attend classes outside the boundaries of a city (we can lump Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport and North Tonawanda into that one), so we make due by scrambling for any project that might find its way into downtown areas, giving ridiculous tax breaks as bait. At the same time, we send 70,000 people to Orchard Park on at least seven Sundays a year, and watch as a couple thousand make the trek to Lewiston to watch Niagara basketball and hockey.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that city leaders in Hamilton haven’t blinked, drawing the ire of Young who’s said in the last few weeks that he’s considering relocating the franchise, maybe even to the tiny hamlet of Moncton, New Brunswick.

Course, if he does, and Hamilton still builds its 25,000-seat stadium on the west harbor where planners have urged, the city will certainly be in line for the next CFL team that becomes available.

In the end, smart planning will help the downtown area succeed, and many will reap the benefits (like they do on game nights at HSBC Arena).

If the owner gets his way, however, he’s the only one who ends making a profit. ...

NY-Penn All-Stars, NCCC coach

Although it’s nearly abandoned all its roots, it’s still interesting to note the New York-Penn League’s All-Time Team, which was unveiled by the league earlier this week. Two-thirds of those selected came through Niagara Falls, although none played for the Pirates, White Sox or Rapids.

Among those who played at Sal Maglie are: Dwight Gooden, 1982 (Little Falls Mets); Randy Johnson, 1985 (Jamestown Expos); Andy Pettitte, 1991 (Oneonta Yankees); Billy Wagner, 1993 (Auburn Astros); Jorge Posada, 1991 (Oneonta Yankees); Don Mattingly, 1979 (Oneonta Yankees); Robin Yount, 1973 (Newark Co-Pilots); Wade Boggs, 1976 (Elmira Pioneers); Kenny Lofton, 1988-89 (Auburn Astros); and Jim Rice, 1971 (Williamsport Red Sox).

The manager for the team was Buck Showalter, who led the Oneonta Yankees in 1985, a year when the old White Sox did play, and 1986, a year in which they didn’t.

“It’s truly an honor and something I will cherish,” Boggs said of his selection. “It was my first year in professional baseball, straight out of high school, and I celebrated my 18th birthday in Elmira. The entire year was a remarkable experience ... a super honor.”

Those on the team who never blew through town were Pete Rose, 1960 (Geneva Redlegs), Bernie Williams, 1987 (Oneonta Yankees); Curt Schilling, 1986 (Elmira Pioneers); and Jonathan Papelbon, 2003 (Lowell Spinners).

Unfortunately, the days for Class A affiliated ball are fading fast for the small towns of upstate, as word is that Batavia will be the next to fall. But while that’s sad, the truth is with the escalating cost of the New-York Penn League teams, and the chance to see a future major leagues also prevalent in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (which keeps adding former NY-P cities to its roster), it’s not the end of the baseball world. By any stretch. ...

... An interesting note that flew under the radar this week was the addition of Jeff Ziemecki to the Niagara University baseball staff. Ziemecki was at Niagara County Community College, serving as an assistant to head coach Matt Clingersmith. And with the influx of Canadian talent coming to Sanborn, don’t think Niagara coach Rob McCoy wasn’t having trouble stomaching the relationship between NCCC and the Purple Eagles’ arch-rival in Canisius. Both Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schools rely heavily on Canadian imports to round out their rosters. McCoy was smart in getting as tight as possible with Clingersmith, who has been an astute judge of talent since getting the NCCC job.

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