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Field house could be in play for Buffalo schools

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Buffalo schools and the city started a series of public meetings last night, looking for public reaction to proposals for a field house for city schools' indoor sports.

"I believe the city needs this. We're talking about a city. We're talking about revitalization. Health and recreation is very important," said Council President Darius Pridgen.

"I'm here, obviously, for the Ellicott District and looking at things like Johnnie B. Wiley where we  already have put in millions upon millions of dollars in infrastructure and in capital."

CannonDesign has been hired to run a series of public meetings to see what the public wants and where it might be built.

"I keep telling everybody if you build this facility, they will come. There are so many organizations out there are looking for a facility like this," said Perry Jenkins, a local coach, teacher and track official.

"That's why the place down in Birmingham, Alabama. They built it. They host NCAA. They host Junior Olympics."

Mayor Byron Brown and Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash are working together on a proposal. They would like it constructed at a city park and near a school.

"You can never get park space back," said HarpData President and CEO Ivory Robinson, urging caution in the planning process. 

"The city made a huge mistake, years and years before my time in getting rid of Humboldt Park and now we have the 33 that has basically divided the city."

Still, most in attendance last night at Makowski School were enthusiastic over the possibilities.

"It's very important that the girls have equity in sports," said Cecelie Owens, principal of West Hertel and president of the Girls Sports Foundation. She  wants female athletes to get equal consideration in the  design and operation of the facility.

"It's very important that the girls have the same opportunities as boys. The research will tell you that there's a strong need for girls sports, especially in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and in urban settings."

Officials hope to have concrete plans formulated by spring. That would include location, design needs and cost.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.