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