Village of Homer seeks federal funding for newly proposed sports complex

Land/fields the village is looking to purchase and build a sports complex on. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/The Cortland Voice).

Village of Homer officials are seeking $450,000 from Cortland County’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation funds to finance the acquisition of Casey Fields. 

Officials said the property would be the centerpiece of a multi-use recreational complex that includes four fields to be used for tournaments.

Village officials presented the request at the county’s Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee meeting last week. Board of Trustees member Ed Finkbeiner said the funding would be primarily used to purchase the property, which he estimates is appraised at $420,000. 

The 88-acre, two-mile portion of land along the Tioughnioga River was initially appraised at $382,000 in 2018, when the village considered acquiring the property. The property, which runs along Route 11 and ends close to Yaman Park in Cortland, already has softball fields that are used for other purposes. Installing the four new lacrosse and soccer fields would cost the village $30,000, Finkbeiner said.

A concept of what the complex would look like from the village of Homer’s presentation. (Photo provided by the Village of Homer).

“The village does not expect to use any income generated from this project to help our budget,” he added.

Finkbeiner noted that the possibility to host tournaments at the proposed complex would pay for parts of the project. He added the village is prepared to use money from their reserve accounts, as well as their own allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for the project.

“This is a great thing for the county,” Finkbeiner added, describing the project as “synergistic.”

The village does not have a timeline or a price tag for the project as a whole. Finkbeiner noted they have not been able to receive guidance on the property from paid engineers since the village does not own the property yet. He also said the village would try to get to work on building the fields as soon as they close on the property.

Village recreation director Zack Pollak noted that based on a study on a similar proposal to attract Little League families in Michigan, Homer could be attracting 445 people per weekend through soccer tournaments in the summer. 

Finkbeiner added that the same study showed that parents tend to spend close to $1,000 in the community for food and other leisure and tourist activities.

The village expects that 10 percent of those visiting the sports complex during a tournament will come from across the county. Finkbeiner said another 10 percent would come from the central New York region, while 50 percent more would come from other regions in the state such as western New York. The remaining 30 percent would come from neighboring states such as Pennsylvania, he added.

Other amenities planned for the complex include creating the county’s first dedicated, 2-acre dog park. Finkbeiner noted there are at least 809 dogs in Homer, highlighting the demand for the dog park. It would be used by residents of other municipalities. The village could also implement 2-mile long walking trails from Durkee Park in Homer to Yaman Park in the city, he said.

Finkbeiner said the village will cover the closing costs on the property, build the proposed fields, as well as the dog park, provide bathroom facilities, install lighting, build pavilions and pay for yearly maintenance and operational costs. 

He also added the village could consider purchasing an adjacent property currently owned by the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to bring in some extra parking space for the complex.

“This is really an asset for the whole county,” Finkbeiner said.

County legislator Christopher Newell (R-LD 11) asked about the village’s finances.

“If half of your asking (price) were to be granted, where does that leave you?” Newell asked. 

Village treasurer Tanya Digennaro said the Board of Trustees would have to look at the feasibility of footing the rest of the bill to acquire the property.

“If there is a partial award, the village has some reserve money,” she said. “The Board of Trustees would have to reassess if it is feasible to buy the land.”