Niagara Falls City School District
By John Forcucci, Niagara Falls City School District, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The Niagara Falls City School District is planning phase one of a voter approved $66.7 million capital improvements project titled “Inventing Tomorrow.”In September, voters passed this referendum with 87 percent support. The Inventing Tomorrow project will assist the district with numerous building updates, including upgrades to athletic fields at two locations in the district. Included is $12 million in upgrades that will see nine playing fields on campus installed with synthetic turf, along with one additional football field (phase two) located behind LaSalle Preparatory School, located in the Niagara Falls District.
Also included in the project is the construction of a field house/practice facility on campus, which includes concessions, locker rooms, public bathrooms, a weight room, a ceiling-mounted batting cage and a multi-sport practice space that’s dedicated for use by the school wrestling program during its season. During its offseason, that space can be accessed by other teams looking for a practice area outside of the two school gyms, which are often congested with games and practices.
Currently, all of our playing fields have natural grass and are in need of repair. Drainage is an issue on most of the fields, and aging bleachers and facility upgrades are in order. Field designs for phase one were submitted to the state for review and approval. Upon approval, the school district plans to advertise fir bids on this project with construction to beginning in June. The phasing timeline has been determined to see all nine fields completed by October 2014. Phase two is currently in the design stage and will be submitted to the state this fall.
Our playing fields are located adjacent to the Niagara Falls High School Campus, which opened in 2000. There are several teams that practice and play their games away from the high school campus at city owned facilities. That includes the varsity and junior varsity football teams, the varsity baseball team, and the boys and girls tennis teams. The upgrades will move all of those teams to our campus.
Although the field upgrades are included in the original referendum, the district will fund this portion of the project through the New York Power Authority Greenway Commission Settlement. This settlement was an outcome of the relicensing of the New York State Power Authority Lewiston New York facility. Provisions in this agreement will see the district receive annual payments from the Power Authority for the next 50 years.
Youth groups throughout the city have been included in the planning for this unique project. The school district will continue to allow the community groups to have access to its facilities. Partnerships are currently in place with New York State Public High School Athletic Association Section 6 athletics, Niagara Falls Police Athletic League Youth Programs, various baseball and softball leagues, and both Cataract Little Loop Football Association and the Niagara Junior Football Club, whose youth groups will benefit the most from the use of these newly upgraded football fields.