The Town of Lancaster will build an indoor practice facility for the Lancaster-Depew Baseball League in Westwood Park.
The town will own – and borrow the money to pay for – the building, while the league will operate the training facility and will pay back the town over 15 years by tapping into sponsorship deals, concessions revenue, usage fees and fundraising.
The league already has raised $50,000, and has $100,000 in sponsorship commitments, to help cover the mortgage payments on the estimated $1.4 million cost of the building, said Dave Mansell, the league’s director of travel and tournaments.
“The [league’s] board is pretty excited and it’s going to be a great thing for the town, and it’s going to be there for years and years and years,” Mansell said Sunday.
The Town Board last Monday voted to give Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli permission to reach an agreement with the baseball league, subject to the approval of Town Attorney John Dudziak.
Town and league officials have discussed the framework of this partnership since last year, when members of the league’s board first approached the town about the need for a year-round training facility.
The Lancaster-Depew Baseball League has 875 boys and girls, ranging in age from 4 to 18, who play on house and travel teams through the organization, which is affiliated with the Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr. leagues.
League representatives told town officials they don’t want to continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars annually at privately operated venues.
Town officials, beginning with former Supervisor Robert H. Giza and continuing under Fudoli, expressed support for the idea of borrowing to build the structure as long as the town’s interests were protected.
League and town officials last discussed the project publicly at a Town Board work session in August.
While details still are subject to the final design submitted by the project architect – who still must be hired by the town – Mansell said he expects the building will have a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot practice area, with retractable batting cages, and 1,500 square feet for storage, a meeting room, changing rooms for athletes and bathrooms.
The building exterior would be made of brick veneer and metal paneling.
The town would place the facility in its Westwood Park, which is on Erie Street between Pavement and Schwartz roads and boasts six ball fields.
League officials in August estimated the building would cost between $700,000 and $750,000, a figure that Mansell now says was unrealistically low. The current estimate of $1.4 million would cover the building, the equipment and the cost of a parking lot.
“Everybody is pretty confident we have the number in the right place now,” Mansell said.
The town is tailoring the agreement with the league to match a deal struck with the Lancaster/Depew Ponytails softball league, which has use of a facility in the town’s Walden Pond Park.
The baseball league would pay back the construction costs, with interest, over 15 years, and cover maintenance and insurance costs.
The town would construct utility and water connections to the building and would cover the cost of utilities, as it does for the facility used by the Ponytails, Mansell said.
While the Lancaster-Depew Baseball League would operate the facility and its members would be the primary users of the building, league officials expect to rent it out to football, soccer, lacrosse and cheerleading leagues in the town.
At last Monday’s Town Board work session, Mansell; league President Paul Cumbo; Larry Komendat, an at-large league board member who stayed active with the league even after his children aged out of it to work on the facility; and league Vice President Bruce Stutz thanked town officials for their support of the project.
Prior to the vote, Councilman Mark S. Aquino said he was in favor of the partnership but he reminded his colleagues that the town would be on the hook for the remaining cost of the building if the baseball league ever folded.
Other Town Board members said they know that’s the case but they consider this scenario unlikely.
Once the town hires an architect, and the league receives the design documents, the town will put the construction contract out to bid. Mansell said he hopes work can begin in the spring and be completed by next November.