Photo by John D’Onofrio Members of the Lockport Rage semi-pro football team go over their playbook prior to practice this week at Outwater Park

A verbal agreement reached between the Lockport Little Loop youth football organization and the Lockport Rage opens the door for not one, but two semi-pro football teams to play their home games at Outwater Park this summer and fall.

LLL president Steve Calhoun said on Friday if conditions of the verbal agreement are met by the Rage — the New York American Football League’s ninth and newest team — both the Buffalo Gladiators and Rage will utilize the LLL’s football field and complex at Outwater Park between July and October.

Calhoun, whose diligent work with LLL over the past three years has not only doubled participation numbers, but earned the praises of many, including Mayor Mike Tucker and Lockport Common Council President John Lombardi, said the announcement benefits many.

“It’s a great opportunity for the gentlemen who play on the Rage who came through this organization. For a lot of them it will be a Homecoming,” said Calhoun, the owner of Steve’s Custom Auto on South Niagara Street.

“It’s also great news for our kids because Little Loop will receive additional funding from the teams, who have to pay for the fields, as well as receiving all proceeds from the concession stand. We’ll use the money to buy new equipment. The new jerseys and new pants we bought this year cost $16,000.”

The way the Gladiators and Rage’s 2007 schedules work out, except for two dates, when one team is home, the other will be on the road, meaning there would be semi-pro football games at Outwater Park for nearly a dozen straight weekends, beginning in July.

The only common dates on the two team’s schedules are July 28, then the Gladiators will host Glove Cities and the Rage host Troy; and Aug. 25 when the Gladiators host Southern Tier and the Rage host Lyndonville. Calhoun said plans are in the works for the Rage to play an afternoon game on those dates with the Gladiators to follow, or for the Rage to host those teams the following day. All games for both teams are scheduled 7:30 p.m. Saturday starts.

Calhoun said the verbal agreement between LLL and the Rage is contingent upon the Rage presenting them with proof of insurance, naming city of Lockport secondary insured, as well as proof of titlement from the NYAFL.

Alderman Lombardi and Mayor Tucker have been instrumental in the city’s positive efforts over the last few at assisting the LLL get back on its feet, Calhoun said.

Since Calhoun become LLL president in 2003, the league has doubled its participation numbers from 80 three years ago to 160 last year.

“We’ve grown two-fold and we’re proud of the work we’ve done,” Calhoun said.

“People have seen a change and a lot of it has to do with the city’s and private companies like LaFarge graciously donating materials and time. There’s a lot going on out there and it’s all about the kids.”

Calhoun said the Gladiators have been utilizing the LLL complex as a home field for the past several years. Alderman Lombardi was instrumental in getting that deal done as well, he said.

Lockport Alderman Tom Grzebinski said he’s interested in finding our more about the verbal agreement made, but added that the news appears to be a good one for the city.

“It would be great to have a Lockport team play in Lockport. The fact that Lockport Little Loop is working with them shows that everyone’s trying to work together as a team,” Grzebinski said.

“If the Rage is able to support themselves — which was a question we had — and there’s no conflict in schedules and everyone works together, this would be great for Lockport Little Loop and for the community.”

A native of Niagara Falls, where he graduated in 1982 and once played Little Loop, Calhoun and his fiancé, Julie VanSchoonhoven, reside in Lockport. They have six children, Amber, Kyle, Joey and Steven VanSchoonhoven and Stephanie and Mary Calhoun.

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