Niagara Gazette

Tim's Take

September 25, 2010

TIM'S TAKE: Women’s soccer timing might be right

— — It got us talking. Sure, the news that a Women’s Professional Soccer franchise is reportedly playing half its home games at Niagara University is hardly a national headline, but having Niagara County’s first-ever, top-level pro sports team makes the tidbit an interesting one.

For those who haven’t heard, the WPS has granted the Buffalo Flash an expansion team, and while it’s easy to dismiss this as another unnecessary foray into minor-league sports, realize what makes it interesting is the markets the league already has in place. The metro areas that have franchises are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Not exactly lightweights.

Although the new team — the name has yet to be revealed — will split its games between Niagara Field and Rochester’s Marina Auto Stadium (the former PAETEC Park), that still means at least a half-dozen home dates could be played here if the league maintains a 24-game regular season.

Why should professional women’s soccer work when the Niagara University women’s team routinely draws less than 300 fans?

A little star power should help. Abby Wambach, the Pittsford native who scored the gold-medal-winning goal in the 2004 Olympics, is one of the league’s biggest names, and although she’s tied in with the Washington Freedom, you’d expect the local club to make a push for her. She’d probably be willing to listen, too, with her ties to the area. Even if not, her appearances would generate a big buzz here or in Rochester.

Also, the timing couldn’t be much better. A popularity surge in the late-1990s came after Brandi Chastain’s famous penalty shot helped the Americans to the Women’s World Cup. That event takes place next June, giving some of the WPS players an international stage to perform. Suffice it to say the league will see a bump in fan interest with the league’s players hogging ESPN face time.

Hickory Stick, winter baseball, Sabres pick, high schools, etc.

Give the Seneca-owned Hickory Stick Golf Course a nod for recruiting big events in its quest to become a well-known golf destination. Even though the clubhouse isn’t totally completed on the Lewiston course, the names that have rolled through have been impressive. First, world-renowned swing coach Hank Haney made an appearance in July, although his most famous students, Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley, were nowhere to be found. Then, last week, a Buffalo Bills alumni group that included Jim Kelly and Andre Reed spent time on the difficult track. We’ve heard consistently that the Senecas are trying to procure a big-name event — the ideal tournament for the region’s size would probably be on the LPGA Tour — and running out a laundry list of heavy hitters can’t hurt. We’ve said this before and we’ll “stick” to it, the course needs at least another year of seasoning. But once the underbrush grows in, this will be one of the most challenging courses in the region. With the Seneca money backing it, don’t discount the possibility that a major event will eventually surface. ... Since we don’t have a genuine rooting interest either way, we’re eager to see what playoff baseball will be like in the Minnesota Twins’ new stadium. Many have called the new venue the league’s best, but having the contests outdoors in October could be interesting. The Twins could have the home-field advantage through the American League playoffs, although the National League own the rights to the World Series, courtesy of an All-Star Game victory. ... Who knows what to expect from the Sabres? Not national hockey experts, that’s for sure. The Sabres are picked ninth overall in the TSN poll, and are the network’s choice to win the Northeast Division. But Adam Proteau of The Hockey News has Buffalo 10th in the Eastern Conference, missing the postseason altogether. Proteau’s reasoning behind the pick won’t surprise Sabres fans. “I really wish I could find something to be happy about in terms of the Sabres’ off-season,” he wrote. It’s possible, of course, that Proteau simply cut and pasted that line from previous season previews. ... On to the high schools — in yet another confounding bit of planning, we’re wondering why the North Tonawanda vs. Riverside football game was held at All-High Stadium on Friday night. The Buffalo Public Schools recently renovated the stadium at Riverside High School to the tune of $30 million, money we’re still not sure was well-spent considering the plight of the entire system. Then, this week’s game between North Tonawanda and Riverside was played at All-High Stadium, meaning the kids had to be bussed away from the sparkling new stadium next to their school. In its place, the Niagara-Wheatfield/McKinley contest was played on the new field. According to reporters Brandon Koch and Ryan Nagelhout, a number of North Tonawanda fans showed up at the wrong stadium. Well, in our eyes, they showed up at the right stadium, but the Buffalo schools sent the teams to the wrong one. ... It should be interesting to see what happens now that Lew-Port middle school principal Vincent Dell’oso has bolted for West Seneca. Word has it the recently created full-time athletic director post was handmade for Dell’oso, who previously served as the school’s AD. You never know how this will finish, though. In 2005, Dell’oso left Lew-Port for a job with the Ken-Ton district, then returned 50 days later to take the middle school gig. “I really missed this place,” Dell’Oso said of Lew-Port in 2005 after he returned. “This just feels like home to me. I should have stayed.” Apparently, it doesn’t feel like home any longer.

Contact Tim Schmitt at timothy.schmitt@niagara-gazette.com.

 

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