Voices: Neighbors and Local Leaders Express Concern Regarding Proposed $25 Million Salina Sports Complex

“The ARF monies should be focused on recovering from this pandemic. There are people out there who need our help, and a sports complex is not going to provide any assistance.”

Salina, NY — Onondaga County Legislature, District 5 candidate, Jana Rogers is a neighbor to the proposed $25 Million sports complex. After reviewing the proposal, she has the following concerns:

“As a neighbor to this project, no mention or documentation was provided to us about the intent of this project, we read this in the newspaper along with the rest of Syracuse.

According to the proposed economic impact, the site would need to host 1,700 visitors a weekend during the operating months. The traffic load, environmental load, and facilities cannot handle that usage. And certainly no studies have been shared with residents to the contrary.

Let’s also talk about the lack of parking in the plan – where would we put more than 1,000 cars that would need to visit every weekend in order for this plan to have the intended economic impact? Certainly there is not enough parking in the plan to accommodate that, and parking along Hopkins road would be dangerous and impact our neighbors and local businesses.

In addition, the traffic flow of 1,700 cars each weekend would seriously impact the 2 lane Hopkins road, and it’s feeders – Buckley Rd and Electronics Parkway.

I would like to see the item lines in the budget that provide the upkeep for this proposed facility and if the county will also plan on outsourcing this responsibility. Things like mowing, plowing, facility maintenance, turf maintenance, these will all have a long term impact for our county budget.

The economic feasibility of this proposal is also questionable. Without having access to the study that the county paid for and should be accessible by all residents, it is difficult to tell exactly what their thoughts and plans actually are. However, the fact that there is currently an operating baseball and softball field in a county park at this location has been overlooked.

Hopkins fields is an active sports site, which already hosts games and tournaments every weekend. Adults and families stay in the community before or after games, and some stay overnight already for softball tournaments. This positive impact to our community has been overlooked. First this positive impact would have to be deducted, then add in at least a year’s worth of construction with no impact for our local business, before any potential positive impact can be measured. The viability of luring travel tournaments and ensuring that the facility will actually see the projected numbers is also very questionable, having seen regular travel soccer tournaments that are usually hosted by facilities with 20-60 fields I am not sure this smaller facility could draw them here.

Lastly, this project is the epitome of wasteful and irresponsible spending by the county.

The residence of Salina, and the entire county should have had input and feedback on how these funds are being spent. The ARF monies should be focused on recovering from this pandemic. There are people out there who need our help, and a sports complex is not going to provide any assistance. We are in a mental health crisis in our county, as well as a health care crisis. Let’s talk about a focused relief effort that will ensure our neighbors can out the other side of this pandemic.

From Kathy Zabinsky, Candidate for Town of Salina Supervisor: “Once again, we are presented with an economic project from the County that we are supposed to accept at face value. The County is proposing to spend 25 million dollars on this project with no input from the Town of Salina constituents, with no studies to support the viability of the project, no environmental impact studies, and with no traffic pattern studies.

I cannot accept or reject this development project until the proper data is presented by the County. As it has been said, ‘The devil is in the details.’ The County needs to give us the details.”

Onondaga County Legislator, Mary Kuhn: “Today we’ve heard from taxpayers and neighbors of Hopkins Road who were not informed about this project prior to a major press conference by the County Executive and Republican Legislators. It should be noted that Democratic Legislators were not informed either. Actually, no one has been informed about important details beyond lots of fiscal projections that have no actual detailed data to support it. This lack of transparency is nothing new in County Government. It is especially true in relation to the use of the almost $90 million of American Rescue Funds that our County will receive.

Federal recommendations about these dollars have continually referred to their targeted use for those who have suffered most during this past 18 months. This would include small local businesses, those in need of an expanded social safety net, water and sewer infrastructure, etc. Economic Development is of course essential to any municipality – it’s jobs and it’s how we pay the bills.

Economic development should first of all include small, local businesses. So, besides this use of $25 million, Republican Legislators recently approved the County Executive’s request for another $20 million in a revolving loan fund to OCIDA – Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency – the politically appointed group that provides tax breaks to large businesses – without any details about how that money is to be used.

In this context, it is important to note that Legislators were recently told by our Chief Fiscal Officer that our County is emerging from this pandemic in excellent financial condition. We ended 2020 with a $25 million surplus. We were told that we are projected to have an even higher surplus this year. During the height of the pandemic, our Public Health Department was cut by 20%, along with all County Departments, while we had almost $80 million in savings that wasn’t touched. So now we have $105 million in savings that is projected to grow.

Our Health Department remains underfunded, we’re still in a pandemic – 10 citizens have died from COVID in the past week and 20 are in area ICUs – and American Rescue funds are proposed to build a multi-sports facility to support tourism and fill hotel rooms.

This notion of a multi-sports facility has been a dream of the County Executive’s for years. I saw a consultant’s rendition of it almost 2 years ago, but now we are awash in money.

Unfortunately little of it is going to address the needs for which it was intended: those most impacted by the pandemic.”

American Rescue Plan Resource Links 

How should local leaders use their American Rescue Plan funding?