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June 26, 2008 - 12:22pm

A closer look at the turf — Just what's at stake if Youth Football plays one more season at Dwyer?

posted by Philip Anselmo in Daily News, sports, dwyer stadium, youth football.

Daily News reporter Joanne Beck paid a visit to Dwyer Stadium yesterday, but she wasn't there for a ball game. She was there to get a closer look at the outfield turf, a plot of grass that has been the center of a controversy over the past week here in Batavia.

At Monday's City Council meeting, Ben Bonarigo stood up and asked the city to let youth football play one more season at Dwyer before it relocated to Kibbe Park at a cost to the city that would not exceed about $19,000. His recommendation was immediately followed by a heated, hour-long debate among Council members, none of whom seemed to agree on even a single detail. (For more details about the meeting and the recommendation by City Manager Jason Molino to relocate the program to Austin Park, check out our two earlier posts.)

At the core of the debate is a simple disagreement between Bonarigo, who is a member of youth football's board of directors, and Council President Charlie Mallow. Bonarigo says that if youth football stays another season at Dwyer, the outfield will suffer no great hurt. Mallow says just the opposite.

Beck writes that if Council approves youth football's request to stay at Dwyer for one more season, "Mallow has no doubt the city will pay another $10,000 next year for field repairs."

We asked Charlie to explain a little more his choice of $10,000 for the city's share of field repair costs. Why that much? He wrote to us in an e-mail:

The city is responsible for the first $10,000. From what I remember it cost the Red Wings $40,000 plus for this season's patch repairs. I expect the city's liabilities to be at least what they were last year. In talking to the baseball people, anything less would not be believable. We can not open ourselves up to escalating costs of field repairs any longer.

Bonarigo countered at the meeting Monday that there is no way youth football would cause so much damage that the city would need to spend that kind of money and that even after the repairs, the field is in the same shape this year as it was last year.

And really, that's what it has come down to: Charlie says this, Bonarigo says that. My question — and I would hope it would be everyone else's question, too — is: Who do we believe?

In Beck's article today, she quotes Muckdogs General Manager Dave Wellenzohn and Red Wings General Manager both saying that Bonarigo is wrong. Wellenzohn says flat out that the "overuse" of the field from youth football "will bring us back to square one," and square one would mean an investment by the city of at least $10,000.

With the quotes from Wellezohn, Mason and Red Wings CEO Naomi Silver, the overall tenor of the article seems very much in support of Charlie's view that: "Council is wasting taxpayer dollars." And it's an argument that should warrant some credence.

Why pay $10,000, $20,000 or even $10 for youth football when that money is not spent on other youth programs, Charlie asks? Why does youth football get special treatment? Or is it special treatment? WBTA seemed to ask the opposite question in their next-day coverage of the meeting Monday: Would one more year of youth football really be that bad?

Unfortunately, Beck also writes that "Bonarigo was unavailable for comment." The Batavian put in a call to Bonarigo's office this morning to take up some of these questions, but he was not in. He should be back later, so we hope to get a comment from him then.

daniel cherry
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From what i recall we nearly lost our muckdogs right?Then it was the redwings to the rescue.Now theres this problem with youth football which didn't exist or was not mentioned before the redwings came in.I'd like to see pictures of the field damage.How could it possibly cost that much?Wasn't it included in the "deal" with redwings?If it was anything to do with police or jails they'd have the money boom right now.I think some people are angry cause they dont want to do as they say and put it in austin park.Why didn't they think about the hotdog stand which is never used in the past?Someone made out on that 250,000$ spray park.I don't think one more year of youth football would be "That bad"...dan
Charlie Mallow
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I can’t speak to why the previous city government purchased a baseball park, a spray park or a hotdog stand that would never be used. I am one of the people who has been left with the mess and does what I can every day to correct the problems. I have a compete understanding of the cities financial problems and as a city home owner I am forced to pay down that debt that has been acquired over the years as well. I’m also not too happy about it. As for who benefited from the spray park, I would assume the children who use it do. I think Phillips story as well as Joanne Beck’s in the Daily sum up the problem very well. There is a limit to what the city can afford and what it can force city homeowners to bear. Government isn’t a charity; it doesn’t get its money from the kind hearts of people. It takes what money it needs and threatens to take people’s homes away if they don’t pay up. I fully understand that city government should only take what it needs to help the community as a whole. I have nothing in common with those who believe government should be everything to everybody. Government is bloated and needs to be reined in. Paying for grass at a baseball stadium so kids can rip it up playing football, isn’t a proper use of government.
Howard B. Owens
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Charlie Mallow: "It (government) takes what money it needs and threatens to take people’s homes away if they don’t pay up. I fully understand that city government should only take what it needs to help the community as a whole. I have nothing in common with those who believe government should be everything to everybody. Government is bloated and needs to be reined in." Charlie, you sound like a Reagan Republican -- good, old fashioned GOP values. We haven't heard that from a politician since Bill Clinton left office.
Russ Stresing
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Both my sons played in the Batavia Youth League, and I have vivid memories of spreading drop-clothes over the car seats on more than one occasion before the ride home. Sometimes,it took extensive cleaning to remove the mud that got up into the shoulder pads and helmet lining. Football games go on rain-or-shine, so a wet field yields to the cleats of players, no matter what. My point is that for mud, you need dirt, and you don't get dirt from a grass field without digging things up. And since football finishes with the end of the Fall season, there's precious little time to do much rehab before that ground goes to sleep for the Winter. A cover of snow over a torn-up lawn doesn't do much for it by Spring. It seems plain that the Redwings organization would need to make sure that the field meets a higher standard for professional baseball than is needed for peewee football. The fields that the youth league uses for practice at MacArthur Park are many and empty, for the most part. What's the problem with using those fields? If the games were spread out over a bigger area, it would lessen the wear-and-tear. Isn't there a pavilion that could house a hotdog/hamburger/sausage grill? Sure, its an additional inconvenience. But, the games could run concurrently, and get over before dark, doing away with the necessity for lights. Is it parking? There's about as much as at the west end of Dwyer, isn't there? Unless the city spends as much on other sports leagues as they do on football, there's a glaring inequity that needs to be addressed.
Charlie Mallow
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Russ just hit this on the head. The city can not support one sport without helping the rest. Both of my sons played Youth Football. They also played a lot of other sports that the city didn’t support were we needed to bring lawn chairs and make due. When I hear how the city has supported YF for years, I think that was a wonderful thing but, I also remember a few people who worked for this city as well who don’t now because of recent budget cuts. I’m not going to list off the all the things that we can’t afford as a city anymore. You all know what we had to do to balance the books. There is still more to come before we are done. It’s painful to talk about and I hate being the bearer of bad news. The city is on its way back financially but, we are not there yet. We are still $1.5 Million in debt. That number shrinks everyday but, we need to come to terms with the reality of our budget situation.
Mark Wiatrowski
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Although typically I tend to keep my nose out of politics,I have been following this story with some interest. Children need excercise. They need structure. They need an activity that interests them and will build on as they become adults. I remember growing up playing baseball with neighbor kids, riding my bicycle until the tires wore out,and just being a kid. There were no political figure heads telling me no you can't play here. Football was not intended to be played on a baseball field. Can you play tennis on a soccer field? Can you bowl in a swimming pool? Football needs to be played on a football field. The Red Wings did this town a huge favor by taking over operations at Dwyer. It would be a shame to compromise what they have done. These kids need a place to play where it's meant to be played,on a playing field that it built to take the punishment of football. Do the right thing and show today's youth that problems can be solved constructively,with positive energy. I believe there might be a solution to the problem, but I'm sure someone somewhere will say it can't be done. Why not have them play at Van Detta Stadium? It's meant for football. If not there, figure out somewhere that would be agreeable to everybody. Just plopping a field in some park is not going to solve the problem, it will just add to it. We are adults, we should think like adults and come to a conclusion that works for all.
Mark Potwora
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I thought Dywer was a multiuse ballpark...thats the way Barry Bower and friends sold us why it was a good idea to rebuild it..so now is it just there so we can have 30 home games for the muckdogs...City taxpayers put up money to rebuild it..but only out of town ball players can play on it..hmmm..then its time to raise the ticket prices and then those that go can pay the taxpayers back ,so then they can run it as a privite enterprize....mark
Charlie Mallow
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Multiuse means you need to have lots of cash to repair the field. The RedWings regularly put $80,000 into their field when they had soccer at their park. Monroe county just paid $1 million to replace the turf at their park. What do we do? Live by what people told us in the past to get us to support building the park and pickup the bill again or do we embrace reality? As for the ticket prices, the Muckdogs have trouble selling tickets for $6. If we chase out baseball, we end up with an empty park and we still have the debt from the construction.
Charlie Mallow
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Jason was told that YF couldn't use Van Detta because the school system was worried that the football field would be damaged.
Daniel Jones
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Well, remember that it was Bill Clinton, a Democrat, that declared that "the era of big government is over". Clinton actually had the political will to cut spending and re-invent government, the Bush administration actually has taken spending through the roof.
Lorie Longhany
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I also ask the question -- why not the football field at the high school? These parents most likely are paying their fair share of school taxes. Here in LeRoy, where football is a multi-generational tradition, our youth play on our high school field. My husband coached youth football for 12 years. We spent every Sunday in the fall either watching my boys play or supporting my husbands many teams on the school's field. We also traveled to other towns, where they too were playing on the high school fields. Our football program in LeRoy starts with the youth teams. Coach Moran and the school realize this only too well and they support these youth programs by giving them the venue to compete and learn the sport. What has it produced? Teams that consistently win sectionals, regionals and challenge for state titles year in and year out.
Philip Anselmo
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Is that a joke? A football program can't use a football field because the football games will damage the football field. That's rich.
Charlie Mallow
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No joke. It was said during our last council meeting.
Mark Wiatrowski
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Come on Charlie..you have to do better than that. Youth football will damage a football field???? These are little kids not 350 lb. linebackers for the NY Giants. How can you justify that ??
Lorie Longhany
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As someone who is looking at this as an outsider, this seems like a ridiculous controversy. Doesn't the high school have two fields? Granted one might be a practice field, but still there are two. I wondered if the problem was maybe the number of teams that Batavia fields in their youth program -- hence a scheduling problem. Then I thought back to years ago when LeRoy was in a Monroe County league and we played huge towns like Penfield and Webster. Where did we play? The high school fields. Youth football, across the area, is played on school fields. I have never gone into a community for youth football where the town or village government own and maintain their own football field. The only rule that I remember the school setting down for the youth program -- was the youth teams could not play before the first LeRoy varsity home game. Big whoop. We always played on Sunday afternoons and the school's maintenance had all week to repair from that weeks contests and get ready for the next weekend. If I was a parent in Batavia, I would start with a petition drive and end it at the next school board meeting. As someone outside looking in -- that seems to be where this should be fought.
Charlie Mallow
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We know what it cost this year and have been given a starting point of $10,000 for next year. We can't afford it. Also, the Redwings put in $40,000 this year and said they can't afford it next year and are expecting the city to pick up the bill in last nights paper.
Daniel Jones
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Sir, the use of one question mark is all that is necessary. If your going to attack people, please use proper English grammar and conventions or download a spell-check program. Have a nice day!
John Roach
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What don't you get? The Red Wings will not keep paying to fix our field. How much will you send, in a check this week, to fix the field? Why doesn't the city give money to youth baseball?
Patrick D. Burk
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For all those interested in THE REAL DEAL from the City of Batavia School District, this issue was sent to the Buildings and Grounds Committee yesterday. This was done even though there has been NO REQUEST to use any City of Batavia School Facility by Youth Football or its representatives. You should also know that fields do get damaged and those that care for them and outside experts have been brought in to determine what impact this will have on any of our fields. ONE MORE THING....More outside interest Athletic events are held on school property than any other facility in the City or Town of Batavia....and NOT ALL OF THE PARTICIPANTS are City Tax Payers. SO before Phil or Dan or anyone comments negatively on the City School District that IS ACTING ON GETTING AN ANSWER....maybe they should know what they are talking about. I am always available to answer questions. Thanks for listening

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