November 27, 2021

Homer unveils huge sports complex plan

Village project could cost up to $30M

Image provided by Keystone Associates

An artist’s rendering of the original proposed sports complex for the village of Homer. File photo from June 2018.

HOMER — An indoor sports complex large enough to fit four full-size baseball fields and a hockey arena, as well as a 2-mile walking trail and the county’s only dog park could be coming to the village of Homer.

“No roller-coaster?” one village resident asked after the plans were presented during Wednesday night’s Village Board meeting.

What started as Trustee Ed Finkbeiner’s simple idea of having a dog park in the village grew to an extensive project that Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe said is estimated to cost between $20 million and $30 million. But it is just in the first design phase at the moment.

The village will seek grants to fund the project and it has a lead on a private investor to help fund it, as well, McCabe said. But he did not wish to share who that investor, or investors, is until the project is set in stone, he said. The village would also bond for some of the project.

There will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday for people to voice their opinions about the project.

The facility would join the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex, in its first phase of being built in Cortlandville, which would eventually have four baseball diamonds, eight soccer fields and three sand volleyball courts, along with the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex in Cortlandville.

The idea of the Homer complex is to create more new sports fields for players from inside and outside of the county to play on, boosting the economy of not only the village, but Cortland County.

John Saraceno, chief financial officer for Keystone Associates Architects, Engineers and Surveyors, LLC in Binghamton, presented the preliminary designs.

He started with the 2-mile walking trail on the east side of the Tioughnioga River that would extend between Durkee Park to the north and the proposed sports complex directly behind the “Circus House” on South Main Street, east of the river and west of Interstate 81. It would be directly across from the “I Love NY” in the grass near the northbound Homer exit.

The big picture

The proposed sports complex facility would include:

• A 350,000-square-foot dome that will house a synthetic turf field with an interior large enough to fit four full-size baseball fields.
• An indoor hockey arena.
• A full-size baseball field outside.
• A Little League field.
• A football arena.
• A soccer and lacrosse field.
• A 2-mile walking trail.
• Boat launches on the Tioughnioga River.

The 8-foot-wide walking path would be raised to avoid disturbing the land, Saraceno said. There would be a pavilion midway through the trail. By the south end of it, on the sports complex land, there would be a small park near the Central New York Living History Center, which is just south of the sports complex.

The parks will include boat launches so people can kayak, canoe or paddle board down the river, Saraceno said.

The Henry A. Calale Park at 45 N. West St., on the west side of the village, will become the site of a dog park. Saraceno said it will be made to accommodate all dogs, there will be obstacles for the dogs to play with and water areas.

A football field now at Calale Park will be removed, while a new one is built next to the sports complex — and will be known as the Calale football field, McCabe said.

Finkbeiner said moving the football field addressed a safety concern of people running across Route 281 near the current field.

While exploring the ideas of a dog park and walking trail, which Finkbeiner suggested, McCabe said the village saw an opportunity to leverage things that would benefit the village and be “massive economic drivers for the region.”

“A lot of jobs, a lot of revenue,” McCabe said.

“All and all, a facility of this size would have a very significant impact on the regional economy with respect to employment, sales tax income,” Saraceno said.

Saraceno is also working with the village to secure state grants. Waterfront revitalization, energy savings, water savings are all potential factors, he said, noting the project was designed to hit those parameters, such as harvesting rainwater from the dome roof to make ice for the hockey rink and to flush toilets, but not drinking water.. That would keep 10 million gallons of storm water from going into the river each year, Saraceno said.

The village has until the end of July to submit its application. Changes to the project can be made before then.

This coincides with the village’s plan to spruce up Route 11 between the village and the city of Cortland and make the Tioughnioga River more accessible, for which it has $300,000.

The plan is to buy and remove buildings along Route 11 in Homer to make the Tioughnioga River’s West Branch move visible and accessible and acquiring the site of the former Budget Inn on Route 11 along with two automotive repair shops on South Main Street in the village.

The projects help to fix up both sides of the river, Finkbeiner said: “This is a dream.”