The Town of Clarence could take the lead role in building an indoor soccer facility in Memorial Park, under a proposal that town officials pledged would not burden taxpayers.
The project is still in the talking stages, but Town Board members are exploring how they might follow through on the Clarence Soccer Club’s idea.
Soccer club representatives came to the Town Board’s Wednesday work session pitching a plan for a privately funded facility, estimated at $1.5 million, in the park at Clarence Center and Kraus roads.
The club’s idea was to buy 1.1 acres from the town at fair-market value and build the facility itself. Club leaders said buying, rather than leasing, the land would make the project financially feasible. But town officials were reluctant to sell town park land and said that process would be lengthy, requiring state legislative approval.
Town Councilman Bernard J. Kolber suggested looking at a different approach: The town would bond the project and lease the facility to the soccer club, which would make payments to reimburse the town for the bonding costs. “So it’s revenue-neutral,” he said. “We can borrow money much cheaper than [the soccer club] can.”
The club would also avoid having to come up with a $300,000 up-front payment to a private lender, he said.
The Clarence Soccer Club bills itself as the town’s largest youth sports program, with about 2,000 participants. Rick Carlson, the club’s president, said the new facility would create an alternative to renting space for players at places like the Epic Center in Lancaster or using a school gym.
“We think we have a real plan here, a viable plan here,” Carlson said. “I know this has been talked about in our club for a very long time. I tell you, we’re closer than we’ve ever been.”
Kolber, a self-described proponent of the soccer program, said Clarence needs its own indoor turf field “without any doubt. Our programs are suffering not having any indoor training.”
The 35,000-square-foot, pre-engineered steel building would include a 40-yard by 70-yard playing surface, suitable for seven-on-seven play. The structure would be 50 feet high at its peak and would include bathrooms, a multipurpose room, an office and storage area.
Details such as who would be responsible for the facility’s operating costs, including utilities, would be negotiated into a lease, said Lawrence Meckler, town attorney.
“I think [the club] would pay, though, not us,” said Town Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr. “We’ll let them sell advertising, do something to cover that cost. I don’t want taxpayers to have to cover it.”
Soccer club leaders prefer putting the building in the middle of Memorial Park, without intruding on any of the park’s 12 outdoor soccer fields.
An alternative site might be unused land in the park’s northeast corner.
James Callahan, the town’s director of community development, reminded the Town Board a soccer facility would face approval processes, including public input.
“Don’t get too carried away until you hear from the public,” he said.
The board referred the soccer club’s request for an indoor facility at the park to the town’s Recreation Advisory Committee for review and comments. It is expected to be on the committee’s agenda Tuesday.
Club leaders said they would like to have the facility open in late 2013.