PAL likes YMCA deal

The Riverhead Police Athletic League is hoping the town accepts a proposal to allow the YMCA to build new soccer fields at Stotzky Park, replacing the badly worn fields shown here.

The president of the Riverhead Police Athletic League says his organization would like to see the Town Board take up Peconic YMCA’s offer to build new fields on county land near Stotzky Park in exchange for town land.

The Peconic YMCA group recently proposed the swap, in which a YMCA would be built on the site of the town’s Stotzky Park soccer fields, while the soccer fields would be moved to the 7.2-acre Suffolk County-owned site for which a YMCA facility had previously been planned.

“I would support whatever it takes to get us two quality fields,” said PAL president Tim Hubbard.

Peconic YMCA officials believe a Y would get built faster on town land than on county parkland, which carries much tighter builder restrictions.

Three of the five Town Board members, however, have said in interviews that they oppose the deal, though Supervisor Sean Walter — one of those three — noted Tuesday that the town is still negotiating with the YMCA.

“We don’t want to kill the YMCA deal,” he said. “We’ve all had meetings with them and we’re still trying to work out a resolution of this.”

Under the proposed deal, Peconic YMCA would take ownership of the town land but would construct and pay for new soccer fields on the county land, as well as a new parking lot for the town to replace the current one. However, the YMCA admits it does not have the money available for those infrastructure improvements, and would have to raise the funds or acquire public grants for the new fields.

The existing fields and the parking lot at Stotzky Park are in bad condition.

“Those fields are atrocious,” Mr. Hubbard said. “And that’s all I have for soccer and football. They’re nothing but dirt, sand and rocks.”

Riverhead PAL has about 200 youngsters in the soccer program and about 200 players and 80 cheerleaders in the football program, Mr. Hubbard said.

The Town Board has discussed repairing the fields in the past — even replacing them with artificial turf — but has backed off because of a prohibitive $400,000 price tag.

Peconic YMCA’s proposal calls for building two soccer fields and a T-ball field on the 7.2 acres of county land adjacent to Stotzky Park where the YMCA originally planned to build its facility. The estimated cost of that is $1.1 million, according to Fritz Trinklein of YMCA of Long Island. The YMCA also would build a new paved parking lot, replacing the current sand lot, at an estimated cost of $750,000, he said.

The Y facility itself is estimated to cost about $7 million, though Mr. Trinklein said that figure could rise.

Peconic YMCA has received pledges of $3 million in private donations, while YMCA of Long Island has pledged a $1 million grant and $2 million in loans for the Riverhead facility, he said. Beyond that, Peconic YMCA is hoping to get $1.85 million in federal funding and $250,000 in state funding for the project. The cost of building the fields and the parking lot would be additional, and would have to come from additional state and federal “earmarks” or more private donations, Mr. Trinklein noted.

The county government last year approved the YMCA as a development partner in building a 40,000-square-foot Y facility on the county land.

The YMCA facility, which under the new plan would be built on the 6.9 acres of town land, would still include a six-lane indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, locker rooms and community multipurpose rooms, including rooms for pre-kindergarten classes, Mr. Trinklein said.

The YMCA is also pledging to provide free teen programming, which it estimates would be worth some $1.25 million, to town residents and residents with economic need,.

“Over $10 million of outside investments for the benefit of the Town of Riverhead is in the offing,” he said.

While Peconic YMCA would take ownership of the town land, which is now owned by the town water district, Mr. Trinklein said the group would agree to a contract clause that would force the YMCA to return the land to the town if it leaves.

In addition, he noted, when the county acquired that land in 2003 it signed an agreement with the town in which the town was responsible for improving the land with park facilities, something that has yet to happen. By building the soccer fields there, the town’s requirement would be fulfilled,

Councilman George Gabrielsen and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio both said they oppose the YMCA proposal because it doesn’t include an indoor recreation facility with basketball courts, something they say they had lobbied the YMCA to include in the project. Mr. Trinklein said that would be included in the second phase of the project, although the town would have to contribute about $4 million toward it.

Mr. Gabrielsen said there is a much greater demand for indoor basketball courts in the community than for a swimming pool.

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