OLEAN – Bradner Stadium has been a part of the Olean city community since its completion in 1928. The former home of the Olean Oilers, a minor league baseball team, the field saw the likes of Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson in action. The stadium butts against State Route 417 to the north. Across the street is War Vets Park. The two are connected by a tunnel that has conducted spectators, competitors and event-goers since the 1930s.
That tunnel may see its days come to an end if the tentative budget of the Olean City Council holds. One of the projects that has been proposed would fill in the tunnel while the surrounding section of Route 417 is resurfaced. Another option, however, would give the tunnel a reprieve and a promotion to the main entrance to the stadium.
The project would take roughly $345,000 for either option, according to Tom Windus, director of public works for the City of Olean.
“Those who use the stadium would like to keep the tunnel,” Windus said.
One of those users is J.R. Bennion, owner and coach of the Southern Tier Diesel, an amateur football team that is part of the Northern Football Alliance. He told city aldermen that the tunnel is a vital part of safety for his organization and for the public in general.
“Our players and officials use the tunnel so they don’t have to attempt to cross the tricky intersection that leads to the top entrance,” Bennion said. “We have even started to use it as the main entrance for the public as well. It’s a safety thing. For the people using the stadium, it is an issue of access. The stadium is not set up for someone in a wheelchair. If they were to use the top entrance, they really have no place to go.”
“The tunnel is more than just an access point,” Bennion said. “It is the link that ties Bradner Stadium to War Vets Park. That tunnel is a much larger asset than liability.”
To make the tunnel access the main entrance would mean closing all but one lane of Route 417 for what could possibly be a three-month period as the three-walled box would be lowered into place. To continue the process, lighting and other accoutrements would have to be installed, according to Windus.
The plan to fill in the tunnel would require closure of all but one lane of traffic for as long as a month, he concluded. The final decision on the budget will be made around April 15.
Other items voted on by the Council:
• Transfer of $10,000 from the Registrar of Vital Records Personnel to the Buildings budget to cover the cost of access controls and cameras at all entrances to the Olean Police Station.
• An agreement for the City of Olean to treat the Allegany County landfill leachate at a cost of $0.025 per gallon of spillage. The contract is an annual renewal of mutual service.