OLEAN – As city workers were busy Thursday morning removing bleachers and lighting poles at the 85-year-old Bradner Stadium, the Olean Local Development Corp. was meeting to discuss its importance and plans for the facility.
“It’s a great resource for the community,” said Colleen Taggarty, Olean City School District superintendent and member of the OLDC. “To have a stadium in the middle of the city like that. Not many little cities like us have that. To throw that opportunity away, I just can’t fathom that. If we don’t begin to reinvest in it, it is going to deteriorate further, and we’re not going to be able to use it. I think the Council needs to see the value it brings to the city.”
Safety issues have become a large problem with the stadium. Reports of event-goers falling through the wooden bleachers and poor aesthetics have created issues with usage.
“For too many years, it has just been let go,” Mayor Linda Witte said. “I think now that we are in a better financial position, the ability to do something this year is there, it’s just convincing the Council.”
Director of Public Works Tom Windus said members of the City Council have not been brought into the mix yet because of other funding options being pursued. After private investment to make the repairs and renovations fell through, it appeared that city borrowing may become the most attractive idea.
Windus told the members of the OLDC that borrowing, especially with the low rates now, would not be a large burden for the city and that City Assessor Fred Saradin has done a great job budgeting for such an event.
The borrowing would be for between $1 million and $1.5 million. According to Windus and Saradin, a bond on the higher end would cost about $100,000 more in debt service.
According to Witte and Ann McLaughlin, Ward 2 alderwoman and Council president, the biggest hurdle is to garner support from the other aldermen. It is something that she has already started, she told the members of the OLDC.
Renovations of the stadium are important to be able to move the Olean Oilers, a baseball team in the New York Collegiate Baseball League, to the facility. The team is currently owned by the OLDC and needs its home stadium to be renovated and brought to standard to bring a bit of stability to the team.
Playing their first season in St. Bonaventure’s Fred Handler Park, the Oilers look to be playing their coming season at the Olean High School field, on the grounds of the Olean Intermediary Middle School. The plan has always been to have them housed in Bradner Stadium.
To bring the park to standard, bleachers have been removed, dilapidated changing rooms have been leveled, and lighting banks are being relocated.
The Oilers are one of several users of the stadium. Jamestown Community College’s athletic teams use the field, as do the Northern Football Alliance’s Southern Tier Diesel. The stadium is the home of the Olean Huskies football team as well.
The Oilers’ situation is a bit different. Not only do they have the life of a nomadic team, but residence for the players has been resolved for the coming season. The players were housed at St. Bonaventure University last season and will continue with that arrangement.
The next meeting of the Olean Local Development Corporation will be at 9 a.m. March 21 in Room 119 of the Olean Municipal Building, 101 E. State St.