Developer withdraws sports arena plans

Businessman John Barese made good on an ultimatum last week, pulling plans for a $15 million indoor sports arena when the Town Board didn’t express support for the project within his timetable.

“They didn’t do anything,” said Barese, who said in June that the town needed to state its support at the July meeting. “I take that as a no.”

Barese had hoped the town would support his plan to build a sports arena on town land and operate it tax-free in exchange for a donation of a parcel of land the same size, cash payments of at least $60,000 per year from parking fees and free use of the facility by students.

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The town, while never expressing opposition to the idea, has not embraced it. It has sought more information from Barese regarding funding (he’s not saying) and it has gone back and forth with Barese over who should pay for a feasibility study for the project.

Barese previously expressed frustration that the town did not submit a request to the state to allow him to build on town land before the Legislature’s summer recess. He said the town could have still decided against the project. Failure to seek state approval set the timetable back another year, said Barese.

Meanwhile, the town said it wanted to see a study before doing anything.

During the July 18 meeting, two members of the board, Jimmy Bruno and Fred Costello, expressed hope that town and Barese could come to an agreement. However, neither of them moved a resolution on the matter. Barese said after the meeting, “You have five people on the board, and anyone can make a motion, and they would have voted on it. Nobody did.”

Nearly a week after the meeting, supervisor Kelly Myers spoke favorably of Barese’s idea: just not on town land.

“I’d like to see the project happen on private property,” she said. “I’d like him to purchase the land, take the risks with his own money. He wouldn’t have to do a feasibility study if he purchased his own land and just went ahead with it. I’m trying to figure out why it’s so important to him to be situated in the park. It just seems like he would have a lot more flexibility and could do what he wanted and not have to jump through state hoops to complete this.”

She said Barese wanted the board to move quickly on the proposal – to stand behind a request for a non-permitted use of public land that receives both state and federal dollars. To Myers, such a request could not be taken lightly, even if the town could choose to veto the proposal at a later date. A study would have to be done before the board could make such a request, said Myers.

“The board has to be really behind this and we’re just not there yet,” she said.

 

Supporters say arena would be a draw

While Barese did not speak during the public comment period, several of the 15 or so people supporting him at the meeting did. They cited the potential benefits to the community, the benefit to the wider community of Ulster County and beyond, and the economic benefits to businesses in the town.

Speaking for the development team, Nick Badalato, a coach at Kingston High School, told the Town Board to consider what it is giving up if Barese finds another site for his proposed complex. “There’s a piece of property back there that doesn’t generate any income for you,” he said. “Here’s a man who is willing to put up a building that will make this the premier sports facility in the region.”

Badalato cited studies that he said show that a facility that draws in people from outside the community can generate $7 for every dollar spent there. He also stressed that many families drive their children to sports facilities outside of Saugerties, and the convenience of having this facility in town would be well worth the cost of membership or use.

The project has wide community support, Badalato said. He noted that some 1,043 people have signed a petition in favor of the complex, and more are continuing to sign. That number is up to 1,207, Barese said this week.

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