By ALISSA SCOTT
With the help of several local organizations, Amsterdam's Recreation Department has started tossing around ideas for the construction of a proposed recreation center in the city.
The local YMCA, W1SHFU1-:TH1NK1NG and the Shuttle-worth Park Foundation joined at a recreation committee meeting Tuesday night to start pitching some ideas, in light of department Director Robert Spagnola's call last month to raise $1 million to build a new center.
"We couldn't have imagined it would have come together like it has," Spagnola said. "So, this undertaking, while it seems far-fetched or a little out there, I think it's really doable and really needed."
William Agresta, who works with area baseball teams, drew up some plans after talking with a Texas company that specializes in sports arenas.
To fit two basketball courts, a turf field for soccer, lacrosse and baseball, an indoor track, a batting cage area, a concession, restrooms, a locker room and a small office, Agresta said the estimated size is approximately 500 feet long by 150 feet wide.
According to the unnamed Texas company, a building that size would run about $500,000.
Where to fit a building that size seems to be the tricky part. Those who attended the meeting hashed out several options, including taking over an existing structure, or constructing a new one.
The group seemed to favor starting from the ground up, as opposed to moving into a facility like the old Bartyzel Inc. building, Quandt's or the Greater Amsterdam School District's Central Administration Building -- if and when administrators move operations to the former Bacon school.
The Bacon school is where the recreation center is currently housed. The district might reclaim the building for administrative offices, as the Central Administration Building needs a lot of repairs.
There's been no indication from the school district or school board about how much longer they will be utilizing the CAB, and if or when they will be moving.
Spagnola said he doesn't want to risk it.
Both he and members of W1SHFU1:TH1NK1NG say the youth and their families have outgrown that facility either way.
One location for a new facility that the group discussed thoroughly is the Chalmers knitting mill site on the South Side.
"You wanna walk the pedestrian bridge? You want to eat some nice Italian food?" W1SHFU1:TH1NK1NG member John Sumpter asked. "It's all right there. You can use the downtown district we've been renovating. You want to walk the walking path. There's a billion things if the rec center was in that location."
If they were to host Amateur Athletic Union tournaments at the center, it would draw hundreds of people and if at the Chalmers site, would push them downtown to spend money in the city, Sumpter said.
Spagnola said he would add that location to the list, but wherever they ultimately decide, they won't be asking the city for a penny.
"That's not how we've done any of the projects," Spagnola said. "We'll come up with a way to fund the project and if we don't meet that criteria right from the beginning, we don't go forward."
Spagnola said this isn't a project that will happen overnight, but brainstorming is the first step.
He said during the next recreation committee meeting he hopes to be more organized and talk about a specific portion of the project like the location, building specifications, and fundraising plans.
In the past 14 months, Spagnola said the progress and the community involvement that have spawned from using the Bacon school as a recreation center is "indescribable."
"We've seen what has happened in the last year at Bacon school," he said. "We've seen with our own eyes how much this is wanted, how much this is needed."
He said it's become a home for so many kids and their change in behavior is unmistakable.
"We're almost obligated at this point," Spagnola said. "If we didn't pursue this, we would almost be shirking a responsibility we have."
Sumpter said it's a necessity.
"It opened our eyes to what we can do," he said. "And I think it's time for us to really plan, like we're doing tonight, for that opportunity to move out of Bacon."