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McKinstry: Greenburgh board should consider sports facility very carefully

An artist's rendering of a proposed indoor sports

An artist's rendering of a proposed indoor sports complex in Greenburgh. Credit: Handout

A lot of questions remain about a proposed sports facility that would be built on contaminated land owned by the Town of Greenburgh. Maybe that’s why a vote by the town board has been put off twice in the last week.
Foremost, is this a good deal for taxpayers? Is this the best use, or at least the most viable plan, for these seven acres off Dobbs Ferry Road?

Supervisor Paul Feiner sure thinks so: It serves an important need, he says.

“If we provide kids with more recreation opportunities, they’ll be off the streets,” Feiner said to me earlier this week. Westchester County’s most populous town lacks adequate soccer and lacrosse fields, he says.

And in the four years since the town acquired the former nursery site, the supervisor said no better offers have come forward.

Under this proposal, Game On 365, a company that operates sports complexes in New Jersey, wants to build a 94,000-square-foot dome and an attached 15,000-square-foot clubhouse; there would also be an outdoor soccer facility. The complex would be called the Westchester Field House and cost about $7 million.

A 15-year lease is proposed in which the operators would pay $260,000 a year in rent, including $50,000 to the town and schools (a payment in lieu of taxes).
Rent would increase to $330,000 later in the lease. In all, that’s roughly $5 million in needed cash for the town — nothing to scoff at. But again, that’s a long lease.

There’s also an environmental cleanup needed; to contend with that the builder would have to kick in roughly $125,000. If it costs more, the company would receive a rent credit. And if the costs exceed $400,000, the deal becomes void, Feiner says. Either way, the town gets a clean piece of property, he says.

Additionally, town leaders can’t ignore that other sport venues are being planned: one in Ardsley (also in Greenburgh) and another in Harrison. There’s a need now, but how does that translate after they are all built? Do they compete or complement each other? Although much of that responsibility falls on the private enterprises, it’s a fair concern for the town, especially if it would one day have to contend with an empty bubble.

It’s also a reminder that localities often make decisions that are good for them and their boundaries, not necessarily the region or neighboring communities. On this proposal, it's hard to know.

Feiner’s on board, so it will be up to the other members of the town board to take a good hard look before they vote. The vote is set for Thursday, although it has been postponed twice in the last week. This facility may indeed be a good opportunity for the town and its residents, but leaders have to give it the rigorous workout that a project of this size requires.