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Volunteer suggests indoor facility to Massena Recreation Commission

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MASSENA — A Massena man involved with the Little League program is proposing an indoor athletic complex that would locate outdoor sports centrally at Bushnell Field.

Peter D. Firnstein told Massena Joint Recreation Commission members Tuesday the setup with Little League fields at Springs Park and on North Main Street poses safety and handicapped-accessibility issues that could be resolved by creating a sports complex.

“It’s a parking nightmare on North Main if 20 teams are there,” he said, noting spectators often have to cross the busy road to get to the park.

Soccer fields behind Massena High School are also difficult for spectators to access, he said.

“One of the biggest complaints I hear is elderly people have to walk so far behind the school to get to the field,” said Mayor James F. Hidy, who joined Mr. Firnstein at the meeting. “Pete has a vision for Bushnell where he’d like to see a more event-filled campus. I’ve been there a couple of times. All there are is a couple of baseball diamonds. He was hoping this was something we could start discussing.”

Mr. Firnstein stressed his desire to help children.

“I was just thinking something for the kids — a multi-field complex in one location,” he said. “Everything is centrally located. It’s for the youth of Massena, but I think it will benefit the community as a whole.”

He has come up with an outline that would ocate sports such as football, soccer, baseball and softball centrally at Bushnell Field. The fields could be used for indoor sports year-round, allowing for some seasons such as soccer to stretch out longer, he said. They also could be used by sports organizations from other municipalities as well as by the planned Boys and Girls Club of Massena, which officials hope to open in May.

“There’s only so many things (the Boys and Girls Club) is going to be able to do in that building (St. Joseph’s Social Hall). I’m trying to think outside the box and get everything in one location. I’m trying to think of an opportunity to give kids something to do in the winter months,” Mr. Firnstein said.

“It will affect more than just the village. It will affect the whole county,” he said. “If you don’t build something to get people to come, they’re not going to come.”

While Recreation Commission members said the plan was admirable, their concern was funding.

“We don’t have our own funding supply,” said Chairman David M. MacLennan. “It’s a nice facility but a high price tag.”

Board members added Dr. William Orlando came to them several years ago with a similar idea to create a softball complex, but funding was the issue.

“Dr. Orlando came down here. That idea has been tossed around. It’s a nice idea” if funding is available, said George Hammill, a commission member.

“It didn’t go very far,” Mr. MacLennan said. “It comes back to the bottom line — funding.”

Mr. Hidy and Mr. Firnstein said they believed funding was available to assist the project. Mr. Hidy said the Massena Community Center had been funded partially through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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