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The Buffalo News (New York)
As waterfront development officials move forward with a master plan to reimagine Buffalo's outer harbor area, a second group of sports promoters wants to put a massive athletic complex on the sprawling vacant land, designed to appeal to a broad range of both amateur and professional sports.
The group, calling itself Buffalo Sportz Corridor, expects to unveil a highly ambitious proposal this morning that would create one of the country's biggest tournament-driven sports and training facilities on the city's waterfront.
The goal, they say, is to turn the area into an economic development engine that would create thousands of jobs, draw hordes of visitors and tap into the $9 billion world of amateur sports tourism. And that would capitalize on the momentum Buffalo is already experiencing.
"Buffalo is starting to catch on right now," said Jefferson Burke Jr., president and CEO of Burke Sportz, a Buffalo-based athletic programming firm, who is one of the drivers of the initiative. The other promoters are John Karan and Daniel Baccari of Left Coast Design Studio Architecture PC of Lancaster and attorney Gregory Pope of Pope Law Firm PLLC of Buffalo.
"If you turn the outer harbor into a world-class destination, everybody can benefit from it and now you become a major player in the tourism industry, and you justify more jobs for hotels and everything else going on."
The concept, which the trio behind the team plans to announce at a morning press conference, appears geared to all ages and interests, and is intended to function as a year-round destination.
The idea for what they are calling Olympia Sports Park envisions an enormous complex featuring facilities to accommodate a full range of activities, from hockey, football and baseball to golf, archery, tennis, mixed martial arts and even beach volleyball. Other areas would be designed for boating, fishing, indoor track, lacrosse, soccer and swimming. There would also be walking and bike paths ringing the area.
The ultimate concept even includes a new domed stadium for the Buffalo Bills, as well as a convention center, south of the Small Boat Harbor, plus a sports outlet mall, a Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and several restaurants. And it envisions an extension of the Metro Rail line or an elevated tram from Canalside straight through the Outer Harbor to the new Bills stadium.
But it's not clear how much political and financial support the group has, whether the state agency that controls the land would support it, or how it would ultimately be financed. The neglected waterfront land, which has long been owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, is being sold to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., with the intent of making better use of it while ensuring continued public access to the water.
Another group has aired a related concept for a new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills on the outer harbor, along with a new convention center, but the idea has received only lukewarm support. And today's new proposal is perhaps even loftier in concept, with a full price tag of several hundred million dollars, depending on the actual plans.
The venture says it is backed by a Clearwater, Fla.-based firm - Sports Facilities Advisory - that has developed nearly two dozen such indoor and outdoor multipurpose sports projects. They include Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster, Pa.; Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Tenn.; and Bo Jackson's Elite Sports in Lockport, Ill., among others.