Avon is ready to play ball

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Avon is ready to play ball


YMCA in Avon

  • 7-11-07: Mayor Jim Smith Reports

  • 7-25-07: Baseball -- What happened to Eastlake?

  • 9-20-07: Avon YMCA Update

  • 10-26-07: Journal Endorses Rec Center

  • 11-21-07: Baseball Stadium Progress

    In the winter of 1992-1993, several men got together and decided to start an independent professional baseball league to serve the West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeast Ohio areas. They believed they could bring professional baseball to areas that would never have a chance of affiliated professional baseball coming to their communities. The seed was planted, and they named their project The Frontier League.

    These founders approached business people and interested individuals in many different cities to own and operate the franchises. In late June of 1993, eight cities began play in high school, college and municipal parks ... The League got through the 1994 season with ... eight teams intact ...

    During the off-season between the 1994 and 1995 seasons ... teams were relocated to Richmond and Evansville, Indiana as well as Johnstown, Pennsylvania ... In 1996, two more cities were added to the League by purchasing and relocating existing franchises. They were Springfield, Illinois and Kalamazoo, Michigan ... In 1997 ... The Canton Crocodiles, who had replaced the Zanesville Greys franchise, won the League Championship ...

    It was the winter of 1999 that saw the greatest changes in the League and elevated it to another level. The League expanded by two teams, making a total of ten teams, by adding the River City Rascals and the Cook County Cheetahs. This was important because it took the League into major metropolitan areas (St. Louis and Chicago) ...

    The Dubois County Dragons also entered the League in 1999 by purchasing the Ohio Valley Redcoats. This purchase also meant that only the Chillicothe Paints remained from the original eight franchises that began in 1993. Also, the League became international in flavor by moving from Kalamazoo to London, Ontario, Canada. The Werewolves would set numerous team records on their way to becoming the 1999 League Champions ...

    In 2001, the Gateway Grizzlies and Kalamazoo Kings were added to the League. These additions gave the League 12 teams. Gateway is based in Sauget, Illinois, a suburb east of St. Louis ... The League again saw changes for the 2002 season. Rockford, Illinois replaced Springfield ... Washington, Pennsylvania was also added by purchasing the Canton Crocodiles ...

    In 2003, the League entered three new markets. Canton relocated to Columbia, Missouri, Dubois County relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin and Johnstown ended an eight year run in the League by selling to Florence, Kentucky ...

    In 2005, the League attracted close to 1.2 million fans ... Following the season, the League suspended operations of the Ohio Valley and Mid-Missouri clubs for 2006. John and Leslye Wuerfel purchased the Richmond Roosters and relocated the club to their home town of Traverse City, Mi ...

    The Frontier League will once again be at 12 teams in 2007. The Southern Illinois Miners will play in Marion, Illinois in a new stadium ... The Slippery Rock Sliders will also play in the league, at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania ...

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 3-27-07, by MEGAN KING, Morning Journal Writer

    ``Baseball dependent on voters

    Avon is ready to play ball.

    AVON -- City and YMCA of Greater Cleveland officials, as well as the investors expected to bring a minor league baseball team to Avon, presented their vision for a sports and recreation complex on 122 acres at SR 611 and Interstate 90 to Avon City Council last night.

    The city is planning a baseball park, recreation center, swimming pool, indoor soccer and hockey facilities, youth soccer and baseball fields and walking trails. There are also 400 to 500 acres adjacent to the facility that could potentially have commercial development, mainly related to sports ...

    A plan to help finance the project will include a 0.25 percent income tax on people who work in Avon, but not those who live in Avon and work elsewhere. The income tax proposal will be put on the November [2007] ballot, [Mayor Jim] Smith told community members and county leaders attending last night's City Council meeting. Ninety percent of Avon's residents work outside of Avon and will not be affected by the income tax ...

    City officials hope to have the first phase of the project ... completed by 2009 ... One of the first priorities will be bringing a 65,000 square-foot YMCA recreation center to the site which Smith said will be available to all county residents and discounted for Avon residents ... The city will finance $8 million of the $13.5 million recreation center cost, and the rest will be raised through a fundraising campaign by the YMCA.

    YMCA officials said last night that the YMCA would be very similar, but larger, than the new YMCA in Lakewood, and would contain a competition size swimming pool, lap pool, basketball courts, a gym and aerobics areas. Avon hopes to find a partner to operate the indoor soccer field and the ice rink when they are built. The city will own the land and the buildings, Smith said ...

    Smith said it would not be financially viable for the city to try to build and operate a recreation center on its own, and the partnerships will help defray the costs and offer more amenities for the public. Scott Sauter, a volunteer with the YMCA who is promoting swimming in Lorain County, said there are few opportunities for competitive swimming in the county ...

    Baseball team investor Matt Perry said last night his group is committed to bringing a minor league baseball team to Avon for the long term. Their product will not compete with minor league teams in Akron or Lake County or the Cleveland Indians. ''Lorain County is its own market,'' Perry said ... Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee said as a member of the Frontier League, the team would be independent from Major League Baseball.

    [Mayor] Smith said a ''long-term commitment'' from the team will help them finance the ballpark. ''If we can get a long-term contract with a minor league team, they can put in the money to give us a better facility.''

    Smith said he envisions the complex as a community gathering place, where events such as the Fourth of July fireworks festival and the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival can be held. Its location, Smith said, will keep traffic away from the center of town and will allow those coming in from outside the city to use I-90 to get in and out of the complex easily. ''This area's made for this type of traffic.''


    [First Interstate is not sponsoring fireworks at Avon Commons in 2008. Instead, First Interstate has donated to the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival and is a sponsor of the laser show.

    As of 6-24-08, no other plans for 2008 fireworks have been announced.]

    The project would cost about $28 million in total if it were built today, but it will be built in phases. After the ballpark and YMCA, a Splash Zone outdoor pool and water park will soon follow, followed by the two-sheet ice arena and then indoor soccer, Smith said.

    The methods of financing the complex will include tax increment financing, which will put a portion of the property tax money from commercial development toward improvements, the proposed 0.25 percent income tax on workers in the city, and funding from the partners such as the YMCA and the baseball team ...''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 3-27-07. by Stephen Szucs

    ``AVON -- The city has caught a baseball team and a recreation center, now it has to convince residents they are worth a tax hike to keep. Avon Mayor Jim Smith presented a development package during the City Council meeting Monday [3-26-07] that would capture an independent baseball league team and a YMCA-operated recreation center should funding be approved by voters in November [2007].

    The Frontier League, an independent baseball league similar to a minor league affiliate, but with no major league ties, was represented by league Commissioner Bill Lee, who said the city had everything the league was looking for ...

    Smith presented plans for a $6 million, city-owned stadium, and said the league would create a new franchise for Avon, although the team's name would be based on Lorain County. The stadium's 3,500-seat capacity would overlook an Astroturf field stretching 410 feet from home plate to the center field fence. Smith said its uses would vary from youth tournaments to trade shows.

    The bulk of the funding would be covered by the team's lease agreement and tax increment financing, in which a portion of property taxes from commercial developments within the 120-acre site would be used to pay for the infrastructure improvements over 20 years. The stadium will be operated by the league, and built in conjunction with a 67,200-square-foot YMCA-run recreation center.

    The $13.5 million [YMCA] center will include a six-lane swimming pool, exercise equipment, rooms for adults and youth and areas for babysitting. Both projects will hinge on whether residents approve a 0.25-percent income tax increase that will apply only to those who work in Avon. For those residents who live in Avon and work elsewhere, the tax won't apply ... the city credits residents for paying city taxes elsewhere.

    The increase would bring the city's tax total up to 1.75

    Matt Perry, a partner in a Frontier League investment group eyeing Avon for a team, said his group intends on signing, but is waiting for a guaranteed place to call home ...

    Contact Stephen Szucs at sszucs@chroniclet.com.

  • WHAT: [YMCA] Recreation Center

    SIZE: 6.5 acres

    COST: $13.5 million

    UP & RUNNING: 2009

  • WHAT: Minor League baseball stadium

    CAPACITY: 3,500 seats

    COST: $6 million

    FIRST PITCH: 2009

  • WHAT: Metro Parks Splash Zone

    COST: To be announced

  • WHAT: Indoor Ice Hockey facility

    SIZE: 7 acres

    COST: To be announced

    UP & SKATING: To be announced

  • WHAT: Indoor Soccer facility

    SIZE: 5.5 acres

    COST: To be announced

    UP & KICKING: To be announced

  • WHAT: Walking trails, outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, little league, softball, youth soccer and soccer fields

    COST: To be announced

    COMPLETION: To be announced''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 3-28-07, by Rena A. Koontz, Plain Dealer Reporter

    ``AVON -- The November [2007] ballot will be the final hurdle for a proposed $14.5 million recreation complex that Mayor James Smith said would finally give city kids something to do.

    "Play ball!" could echo through the streets in spring 2009 if an increase in the city's income tax from 1.50 percent to 1.75 percent is approved. Only people who work in the city will pay the tax. Smith said about 90 percent of Avon's 17,000 residents work outside the city and won't have to pay for the new complex. Folks working outside of Avon will receive a 100 percent tax credit and get a membership discount once the facility opens.

    Details of the complex were introduced Monday night [3-26-07] and included input from the Frontier League, an independent baseball minor league with 12 teams that representatives said is eager to call Avon its home. The league would sign a 10-year contract with a 10-year renewal option, Smith said.

    The ball field and YMCA-run recreation center would sit on 122 acres at Interstate 90 and Colorado Avenue (Ohio 611). Smith said an indoor soccer facility, outdoor pool and indoor hockey rink are also in the plans. Everything hinges on the income tax increase, which would generate more than $1 million a year.

    "We would put in $8 million and the YMCA would put in $6.5 million and they would run it. People in Avon would get a discount but it would be open to the region." Smith said the YMCA's programs for seniors as well as young people are among the attractions for the partnership. Both the Y and the ballpark would open at about the same time. Smith said concerts, the annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival and July Fourth fireworks also could be staged at the ball field ...''

    To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: rkoontz@plaind.com

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    EDITORIAL from The Press, 3-28-07


    The city of Avon presented plans, plans that have already been hashed over in the media, this week for a spectacular recreational campus that spans 122 acres.

    It's a big, big project. Some residents might have flashbacks to 2003-04, when other recreational plans flashed before the public to build a multi-million dollar recreation center in Avon Lake that morphed several times as did its financing.

    Those plans were introduced a full year before a vote on a one-eighth of one percent income tax increase was slammed down 72 percent to 28 percent in a special election ...

    The Press would like to see the Avon project fully vetted and all questions answered before conjecture and supposition runs rampant through the voting community.

    Last week alone, news stories were popping up all over despite the fact no official announcements had been made. Within a day, The Press had received correspondence from what appears to be a knowledgeable reader casting doubts on a baseball team's viability.

    Should voters opt not to pass the necessary tax needed to support this project, we hope it's for the right reasons. Keep the information open and the facts coming.''


    EDITORIAL from The Morning Journal, 4-1-07

    ``... In Avon, a deal is in the works for an independent Frontier League team. That minor league club would play at a stadium to be built as part of a larger municipal recreation complex proposed for a site at I-90 and SR 611. The complex could include a stadium, youth baseball fields, a YMCA recreation center, indoor soccer and ice arenas, walking trails and commercial businesses, city officials have said.

    To help fund the project, Avon voters would be asked in November to levy a .25 percent city income tax on people who work in Avon.

    We've been told by knowledgeable people that the Lorain County market only has room to support one minor league team. It seems likely that a team will come to Avon ...

    Fielding a minor league team is more than a matter of desire. Baseball is a business for the league and for the investors whose money puts the teams on the diamond. They expect to receive a healthy return on their investment, and host communities need to be able to strike a balance in catering to their needs ...

    A stadium and baseball team should be a source of entertainment and civic pride, but not a financial anchor dragging the city down in a sea of red ink. Avon should take things a step at a time ...''


    Source: http://www.loraincounty.com

    I think the recreation complex is a good idea -- there are 5 lanes on SR 611 at I 90. However, as others have pointed out, the City of Avon should exercise extreme caution in signing any contracts with the Frontier League and the YMCA, both of which have demonstrated a willingness to pack up and leave on short notice, leaving behind empty Y's and stadiums. These contracts should be made public before the election in 11-07.

    Written by Oldtimer on March 31, 2007


    If one-tenth the effort expended on fostering land speculation on Nagel Rd. were pumped into the SR 611 I-90 interchange, Avon would have much more commerce and industry than it does now. After all, there are already 5 lanes on SR 611 in the the vicinity; and no taxpayer dollars are required as there would be to trash Detroit Rd. and Nagel Rd. in East Avon.

    Why hasn't our government taken step to make it easy for traffic coming north on Case Rd. to reach the SR 611 - I 90 interchange? Development around this interchange should be encouraged.

    Written by: Oldtimer on March 16, 2007


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 3-28-07,

    By Rebecca Turman

    ``AVON -- Mayor Jim Smith shared plans with community members regarding a 122-acre recreation complex to be built near I-90 and SR 611 in Avon after the March 26 [2007] regular meeting of Avon City Council ...

    Smith told residents that the Frontier League, an independent professional baseball league in its 15th season might be coming to town with the city's support, and a YMCA would be included on the property with the Frontier League baseball stadium.

    The stadium and the YMCA are the priorities at this time. Future items could include a splash zone (water park), indoor soccer facility and an indoor hockey rink. In the more distant future, the city will also look into soccer, Little League and softball fields, along with walking trails.

    Smith explained that while some of the facilities would be partially owned by the city, they would be run by the individual entities ...


    Costs for the YMCA and minor league ball field are estimated at $23.5 million -- $13 million will be spent on the YMCA facility, $8 million on the ball park and $2.5 million on improvements, roads, etc ...

    According to Smith, the project will be financed via Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and income taxes.

    The city owns the 122 acres that the entire recreation complex will be built on, but Smith said it would be the adjoining property that would make the city money. "We've got 500 acres around there that's vacant," Smith said ...

    The new recreation complex will also be paid with a .25 percent income tax with a 100-percent tax credit, which means that those who work in Avon, but live elsewhere, will foot the bill, Smith said.

    For the project(s) to advance, the tax increase must receive approval from city residents in the November 2007 election.

    Avon workers will get the same discounted rate as residents, Smith said, because they are ultimately paying for it ...

    "The ball team will be able to retire 50 percent of the ball field (costs); we cover the other half," Smith said. "For every year we're there, we'll probably be able to retire $1 million of debt ..."

    Frontier Baseball

    ... The Frontier baseball stadium will be built on 29.5 acres of land, according to plans ... the stadium would hold 4,000 seats, along with 2,000 seats in the outfield ...

    The ballpark isn't for "Frontier players only," Smith said. "Premier teams in Lorain County, they would play there. Kids in Avon will play on this field."

    Along with providing another ballpark for the community, Smith said the facility would have the ability to host concerts, fireworks and maybe the Duct Tape Festival.

    [Matt] Perry, of Topeka, Kansas and his partner, Bill Davidson, of Chattanooga, Tenn. own National Sports Services. They will be part owners of the Lorain County Frontier League team.

    Perry said the Avon and Lorain County location was ideal. "Geographically, it was absolutely the best fit for Avon," he said. "The site has really good access."

    They also chose Avon because they believed Avon had the right resources to develop the proper funding plan for the stadium, Perry said.

    Though Perry said he and his partners haven't owned a Frontier League team before, he said, "We know a lot of owners in the league and are very familiar with the markets. They have done great things with building facilities. I'm very comfortable in our decision to be a part of that league."

    Perry spoke out about the concern that Avon would become another Eastlake as far as financing a team goes.

    "For starters, associating Eastlake as a failure on the team side is a real misnomer," he said. "They are one of the top teams in their league with the top percentage of attendance."

    As far as the entertainment end goes, "that has worked like a gem," Perry said. "How they chose to fund the stadium is a whole other matter." ...

    During the meeting, a resident questioned how many of the original Frontier teams were still in existence in the same location today.

    "Chillicothe, Ohio, today is the only team that is still with us," Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee said, adding that league, however, has grown more stable with experience.


    The YMCA has been named the official facility to come to Avon. The facility will be located on 6.5 acres, according to the proposal.

    YMCA of Greater Cleveland CEO Glenn Haley said the facility would be 67,000 sq-ft., which would make it the largest facility in the surrounding area.

    The Greater Cleveland YMCA is not affiliated with the independently owned YMCAs that were closed in Lorain County recently, Haley said.

    "(Cleveland) YMCA came to me a couple years ago and I didn't have the amount of people (needed to fund a rec center)," Smith said. "The operations are so expensive, we couldn't do it solo. You need at least 65,000 people in the community (to make this work)."

    Smith said the YMCA would ultimately own the building. The Y will pay $5 million and the city will pay $8 million.

    Smith said membership for Avon residents and workers will be "significantly cheaper than anywhere else," though prices haven't been worked out yet. "We make sure we make enough, but make sure it's cheap enough," Smith said.

    The Avon facility will include a lap/therapy pool, indoor basketball court, a regular gym, a competitive six-lane pool and other amenities ...

    Haley said the Avon YMCA would be an "anchor facility" for other satellite YMCAs that may open up in Lorain County ...

    Smith said that the YMCA facility wouldn't hurt the Avon EMH Center for Health and Fitness' business ...

    During an interview, General Manager of the EMH, Sabarras George echoed Smith's take.

    "I think it will affect us as any other facility that offers fitness," George said. "Places like YMCA are family-oriented and cater to all ages. We're an adult facility supplied by a medical entity. It's a different experience and environment. Will it affect us? No more than anything else."

    "All of those (ice rink, ballpark) are costly entities to get involved with," George said. "Some of those entities in Northeast Ohio are closing their doors. There's a reason why every community doesn't have them."

    At the same time, George said, "I think that's (recreation complex) fantastic for the community. I think the mayor has a brilliant business mind."

    Where things stand

    If financing is approved in November, the project would take roughly two years to complete.

    "We're about six months to a year out with hockey," Smith said. "The ball team and the rec center we would like to open in the early part of `09 and have a shovel in the ground by Jan. 1 (2008)."

    "I think it's a good program, the layout is good, the time is right," Smith said.

    Residents will get the final say when they vote for or against the issue on the November 2007 ballot.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 3-28-07, By Rebecca Turman

    ``Village stands to gain big from recreation complex

    AVON -- Rumors have been circulating the past month about a recreation development and a minor league baseball team coming to the city of Avon. As of Avon's March 26 regular meeting of council, when the development plans were revealed, the rumors became "official."

    The city will be pursuing a $23 million 122-acre recreational development to include 29.5 acres for an independent professional baseball league (Frontier League) field, 6.5 acres for a YMCA, approximately 5.5 acres for an indoor soccer facility and 7 acres for indoor hockey. The proposal also shows that the remaining property will be split among two soccer fields, two youth soccer fields, a little league field and a softball field. The city also plans to put walking trails in the same area in the future.

    While Avon will foot the bill with a .25 percent income tax increase to be paid by people who work in Avon and via Tax Increment Financing, Avon isn't the only city that will reap the benefits of the development.

    "I couldn't be more thrilled," Sheffield Village Mayor Darlene Ondercin said about the proposed development. "Sheffield Village stands to gain from all of the run-off that will be needed (hotels, restaurants, etc)."

    Not only will the Village gain economically, but Ondercin said the community would also benefit from having a recreation facility and fields in such a close proximity.

    Though fields and rinks are accessible in Lorain or Elyria, "A lot of our residents don't go out that way," Ondercin said, reiterating the benefit of the possible recreation development's proximity.

    With the city of Lorain looking to build upon its riverfront and this possible recreation development in Avon, Ondercin said the Village would benefit from being the go-between city.

    "We'll be the place in between that people will stop to eat, stay the night and shop," she said.

    Not everything about the project is positive, however. According to Ondercin, whenever you have a new development, you are going to have traffic issues. "They may have to do some upgrades to the roads," she said. "But lots of traffic means lots of shoppers."

    "I'm not going to say that there won't be headaches," she said. Because of the overloaded traffic at the I-90 and SR 83 interchange and new traffic to come to I-90 and 611, Ondercin said, "Drivers' options will be limited ..."

    Currently, the Village is widening SR 611 from the Lorain city line to Abbe Road in the Village. "From there it goes to five lanes into Avon," Ondercin said, adding that the roads are already in place to accommodate the development.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 4-5-07, By Kim Guffey, Staff Writer

    ``AVON -- Taxpayers will have to pay before play can begin at a proposed baseball complex and recreation center.

    Voters will take a crack at a 0.25 percent income tax increase in November [2007], Mayor Jim Smith said. The tax will include a 100 percent credit for resident who work outside the city, meaning only people who work in Avon will pay, Smith explained. The tax would generate about $1.1 million a year and bring the city's total income tax to 1.75 percent.

    Plans for a minor league baseball complex and a YMCA-operated recreation center to be built on 122 acres of city property at Route 611 and Interstate 90 hinge on voters' income tax approval. The recreation center, which Smith listed as his top priority, is slated to cost a total of $13.5 million. However, the city will contract with Cleveland YMCA, who will shoulder part of the building costs and all the operational duties.

    Of the total construction costs, the city will shell out $8 million, Smith said. Construction of the ball park, which will house a Frontier League team, will cost about $7 million, he said. Both projects are expected to be completed by 2009, assuming voters are on board ... Smith presented plans for both projects to City Council on March 26 [2007].

    The Frontier League would create a team and use the new Avon complex to play 48 games a year, Smith said. The league would shell out $20,000 a month in rent for use of the field, he added. In order to remain in the plans, the league would be required to sign at least a 10-year contract with the city, he said.

    The Frontier League operates 12 teams across the Midwest, including the Chillicothe Paints. Avon High School baseball could also play games on the new field, as well as area championship games, Smith said ...''

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Joournal, 6-8-07, by ALEX M. PARKER, Morning Journal Writer

    ``ELYRIA -- While the Cleveland YMCA is pushing for a new center in Avon, local leaders are looking at possibilities for a pool in Elyria ...

    The Lorain County YMCA closed its Elyria and Lorain branches last year, citing a financial crunch and lingering debt. Members were left to use alternative facilities or go to the nearby YMCA in Vermilion.

    The county commissioners hoped to purchase the buildings from the two closed YMCAs, but couldn't reach a deal to buy them from the Texas-based financial firm which owns the organization's loans.

    Currently, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland is planning to build a pool and athletic facility in Avon, at the intersection SR 611 and Interstate 90, the same site where the city plans to host a minor-league baseball team. An income tax levy on the ballot in November [2007] would help pay for both projects.

    As part of the same project, the YMCA plans to open smaller branches in Amherst and Elyria. The Elyria branch would share facilities with the local YWCA ...

    Initially, Betty Blair expressed doubts about the plan, claiming it was neglecting Lorain County's geographic center, as well as Lorain and Elyria ...

    Blair said she was satisfied with the YMCA's proposal, and was swayed by a plea from Jeanine Donaldson to think regionally.

    Donaldson, executive director of Lorain's YWCA, said the county would have to start thinking about regional cooperation if it wanted to have YMCA's facilities.

    ''I think we should be applauding this project, it is so far-sided,'' said Donaldson. ''We can at least establish a presence and then go from there.'' ...

    YMCA officials said Avon's promise of funding, if the voters approve the levy, makes it the most viable location ...''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 6-8-07, by Adam Wright

    ``Y wants help to replace closed facilities

    ELYRIA -- More than a year after YMCAs in Lorain and Elyria locked their doors without notice, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland is asking county residents to help it raise money to build two new facilities.

    Glenn Haley, president of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, told the county commissioners Thursday that the organization has a three-year plan to raise $14.2 million to construct new facilities in Avon and Amherst and to renovate a YWCA in Elyria ...

    The Campaign for Lorain County quietly kicked off earlier this year with private support, but Haley said it's now time to reach out for more. "We offer a lot of good programs that help a lot of people," Haley said. "I want to bring these facilities to Lorain County."

    The organization is looking for volunteers to help raise funds, as well as donors to put the projects into action. Citing a growing obesity epidemic among adults and children and other challenges today's kids face, Haley said the facilities are desperately needed.

    "You have to put them where people can get to them," he said, adding that the next-closest YMCA is in Westlake. "Kids want a place to go after school, and we're looking for a way to give them a place."

    Haley ... answered critics' cries about why they're choosing to put the most expensive facility -- a 65,000-square-foot full-service membership branch costing $13.6 million -- in the affluent city of Avon.

    The Amherst facility, which will be located in an old La-Z-Boy store on Cooper Foster Park Road, will cost $450,000, while the renovations to the Elyria YWCA will run $150,000.

    "It's economics," he said. "For example, in Cleveland we need to have eight highly functioning units in order to keep these other ones going."

    The Avon branch was also appealing to the organization because the city promised $8 million, pending voter approval of a 0.25 percentage point income tax increase on the November 2007 ballot. Anchored with a six-lane competitive swimming pool, the Avon branch will be the cornerstone of a proposed municipal complex, along with a baseball stadium, soccer fields and an ice rink.

    In Amherst, the 13,000-square-foot Y-Express branch will have workout programs and fitness equipment ...''

    Contact Adam Wright at awright@chroniclet.com.

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    AVON MAYOR'S COLUMN, The Press, 7-11-07, by Mayor Jim Smith

    ``Pool, water park, walking trails could be next for city

    In past columns I have given the citizens of Avon information on the first phase of the entertainment complex -- the recreation center and baseball stadium. At the present time we are very close to finalizing the arrangements for the recreation center, which is the most important component of the overall complex. We have met with representatives of the YMCA several times to iron out the intricacies of an agreement.

    Today I would like to tell you a little about what is planned for the second phase.

    Current plans for the second phase of the complex call for an outdoor swimming pool/water park very similar to the Splash Zone in Oberlin. There will be pools and slides plus programs for everyone from young children to senior citizens. Once built, this attraction will be operated and maintained by either the YMCA or the Lorain County Metro Parks, which will eliminate those costs for the city of Avon. This will be a substantial savings for us, while still providing a very desirable amenity.

    In addition, we are planning walking trails and an area that will accommodate the Duct Tape Festival, entertainment, future fireworks displays and possibly other festivals, as well.

    This year [2007] we were unable to enjoy a fireworks display for the Fourth of July. In the past the display was sponsored by First Interstate, the owner of Avon Commons. However, now that the center is almost totally built out, the safety factor becomes an issue. This new area would allow us to plan future firework displays that will be safe and entertaining and will also allow traffic to leave the area expeditiously.

    In the future we will look at more baseball and soccer fields for use by our community, indoor ice skating, hockey and also possibly indoor soccer areas. We are presently in discussions with groups who may be willing to give us a commitment with financial guarantees in writing that will be a benefit to the city.

    It is our goal to provide the residents of Avon with recreational facilities they will enjoy while keeping costs at a reasonable level. The most important part is making sure everything in the new complex is suitable for the city and is also cost effective.

    If passed, we will be using the proposed income tax increase to go forward with this project. The 1/4 percent increase that will be on the ballot this fall will only affect people who work in Avon. The only exception to this would be for those working in a city, township or village that does not have a workplace tax or has a tax less than 1.5 percent. Of course, no tax is charged on unearned income such as pensions, interest or dividends.

    I feel it is important to keep our citizens informed, which is what I plan to do as we go through this process. What I do want everyone to understand, though, is that any project must make sense for us financially and also supply desirable amenities for the community. [Mayor Jim Smith may be reached at 440-937-7803.]


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 7-11-07, by Stephen Szucs

    Avon Council adds income tax hike to ballot

    ``AVON -- It's officially up to Avon voters to decide if they want a recreation center, a minor league baseball team and other first-class athletics facilities.

    Council approved adding a 0.25 percent income tax increase to the November [2007] ballot during Monday's meeting. The projects hinge on the tax increase, which would bring the city's income tax up to 1.75 percent, and apply only to those who work in Avon. Someone who earns $50,000 a year would pay $125 annually, if the increase is approved.

    An additional $1.2 million would be generated annually by the increase. In 2006, the city collected more than $7.6 million in income tax. Mayor Jim Smith presented a development package with YMCA and Frontier League officials to Council in March that included plans for a $13.5 million, YMCA-run recreation center and a $6 million city-owned stadium.

    Smith said Monday that the 67,200-square-foot recreation center remains the cornerstone of the project. "The rec center is the thing people in the community have been asking for," he said. "It's the key component. The other (projects) will happen, but within time."

    Smith said the city is still in negotiations with the Frontier League to bring an independent baseball team similar to a minor league affiliate to the city.

    Matt Perry, a partner in a Frontier League investment group eyeing Avon for a team, said in March that his group intends on signing, but is waiting for voter approval of the 3,500-seat-capacity stadium before they're willing to commit.

    The proposed 120-acre site along State Route 611 and Interstate 90 would grow to include a Lorain County Metro Parks' "Splash Zone," an ice hockey and skating rink, indoor soccer facility, tennis courts and youth baseball and softball fields.

    Smith said the city will begin an informative process that includes taking senior citizens and members of the city's park and recreation board to the recently built YMCA in Lakewood, which is comparable to the one proposed in Avon.

    A committee will also be formed to create mailings describing the projects and the tax increase. The mailings will be funded by groups, including a local swim team and the Avon school district. Although Smith suggested that some of the $7,000 locked up in his own campaign coffers could be utilized to spread the 'informative' word, he maintained that his buck stopped there.

    "There's no emotional attachment here," Smith said. "I'm bringing (the projects) before the people and saying this is what we got. If they want it, they'll vote for it. My job is to at least bring these ideas to them."''

    Contact Steve Szucs at sszucs@chroniclet.com.

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    Baseball -- What happened to Eastlake?, 7-25-07, by Mayor James A. Smith

    As I continue my reports to you on issues pertaining to the recreation and entertainment complex we intend to build, I would like to give you information on the events that caused the City of Eastlake to be in the financial straits they are because of their baseball stadium. There have been some concerns expressed by a few of our citizens that I would like to address today.

    I met with Ted Ondrzejewski, the new mayor of Eastlake. We went over their situation and discussed exactly what had caused the problems that resulted in their financial difficulties.

    The mayor in office at the time made some critical mistakes. He allowed the project to become an emotional one, rather than using strictly financial criteria to make his decision. The stadium was completely overbuilt at a cost $24 million. It is located in the heart of the community with no room for additional economic development to surround it.

    There was no revenue stream planned -- no income tax or property tax. To compound the problem even further, non-callable bonds were used as a means of financing. It is hard to explain this form of financing, but the basic result is that starting from the day you sign for a $24 million bond, you actually must repay $48 million, and there is no ability to pay down the principal if you should receive grants or other additional funds.

    These were the very serious errors made on the part of the administration and they all combined to make a huge burden for the city. Now, the new mayor, Ted Ondrzejewski, has taken the bull by the horns and will eventually right the situation, but it will take a long time.

    Avon will be careful to avoid these problems. We will not go forward without the proper revenue stream being in place. This will come with passage in the Fall of the proposed % income tax on workers within the city and from a guaranteed long term rental agreement.

    We will be able to save a large amount of money by sharing the cost of the infrastructure improvements and the parking areas with other entities in the complex. The [baseball] team will handle all maintenance and upkeep, which will be a savings for the City.

    There are approximately 200 to 300 acres of vacant land available around our location that will allow further economic development and income. We will not overbuild our stadium; it will be cost effective. The total cost will be $7 to $9 million and not $24 million as in the City of Eastlake.

    I have done research and talked with mayors of other cities that have teams in the Frontier League. In the early days of the league the teams did move around a great deal, but this was mainly because conditions where those teams were located were not proper. They often played on high school or college fields that were not conducive to professional baseball. Conditions have stabilized and the league is very successful.

    The team in Avon will play 40+ games per year in this stadium during a season that starts in June. This will allow our high school and other City teams to have access to the field. The field will also be available for other events. In contrast, the league in Eastlake plays a 70+ game schedule that significantly lessens the use of the stadium for any other events.

    The concerns of our citizens are mine also. We must be very sure to protect the financial stability the city has become accustomed to over the last twelve years. I believe this article explains the huge differences between the City of Eastlake and the City of Avon. We will not repeat the mistakes that were made in Eastlake. [Mayor Jim Smith may be reached at 440-937-7803.]

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    GUEST COLUMN from The Sun, 9-20-07, by Mayor Jim Smith

    ``In a continuing effort to provide information on the proposed sports and recreation complex, I am writing today to explain our plans for the recreation center.

    Over the years, the facility that has been the most often requested by our longtime residents as well as those moving into the community has, without doubt, been for a recreation center and swimming pool.

    During this time I looked at many cities and learned that it is financially very difficult to support such a facility if you do not have a population count of 40,000 to 50,000 residents. However, Dan Martin of the Lorain County Metro Parks System feels the figure would have to be significantly higher (at least 60,000) in order to defray the costs and make a center financially feasible.

    If you build a nice center that provides all the needed programs, the operational costs are so significant that either or both of the following things can happen:

    You have to charge an exorbitant membership rate; and/or

    You must take operational monies from the city's general fund, which means other necessary services in the city could suffer, such as police, fire, road repairs, etc.

    I looked at many different options, trying to find a way to provide this amenity for our residents. When I contacted the YMCA of Cleveland to inquire about partnering with us, it provided a perfect solution, since they are one of the foremost operators of recreation centers.

    The agreement under consideration requires the city to cover approximately $600,000 per year in debt retirement. I realize this is a large amount of money, but this requires the least financial burden for the city and relieves us of any operational costs or responsibilities, which would be significant. In this way it will not cost the proverbial "arm and leg" and the city will not have to dip into its general fund.

    If we tried to complete this project ourselves, it would take another $500,000 per year for debt retirement plus operational costs that would exceed the amount of the debt retirement each year. As you can see, by partnering and bringing in other members for this project, we can reduce our financial burden significantly and still have all the amenities.

    The center will be approximately 64,000 to 67,000 square feet and will be a first-class facility that will make our residents proud. It will have a lap pool and a competitive pool with a spectator area that our schools will be able to use for training and meets. It will have all the traditional amenities of a typical recreation center, including workout areas, basketball courts, a babysitting service, etc.

    I will continue to use updates to keep you informed. The entire complex will be large, but doable at a reasonable cost and will be an asset for the citizens of Avon for many years to come.

    If you have any comments or would like to discuss any aspect of the proposed project, I invite you to feel free to call my office. My direct line is 937-7803. ''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 10-19-07, by Lisa Roberson

    ``The YMCA of Greater Cleveland has a vision for Lorain County that could see the return of services in Elyria, Lorain and Amherst. But before residents in those communities can reap the benefits of YMCA programming, residents in Avon must pass a 0.25-percentage point income tax increase to get their own facility built.

    The proposed 67,200 square-foot, full-service membership branch, to be at state Route 611 and Interstate 90, will be the anchor future expansion into county will be tethered on, said Glenn Haley, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland. Without it, future program development for Lorain County could be dead in the water ...

    The city of Avon will put up $8 million of the $14.2 million project -- a contribution that hinges on voter approval next month. From there, the YMCA is confident they can raise the remainder of the capital needed ...

    Avon Mayor Jim Smith said there is a lot more at stake next month than whether Avon residents get their recreation center. "When I heard that the county swim meet was in Akron, I couldn't believe it," Smith said. "This facility is needed to keep the kids in the county where they belong."

    The plan calls for the proposed 120-acre site to grow to include a Lorain County Metro Parks' Splash Zone, complete with six-lane competitive swimming pool, an ice hockey and skating rink, indoor soccer facility, tennis courts and youth baseball and softball fields.

    "But you got to show someone you already have a successful program before you start asking them for money to fund another," Smith added, saying the Avon facility would be what draws in funds for the other county projects ...''

    Contact Lisa Roberson at lroberson@chroniclet.com.

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    EDITORIAL from The Morning Journal, 10-25-07

    ``Approve Avon Issue 35 to build first-class sports and recreation complex

    By approving Issue 35 on the Nov. 6 [2007] ballot, voters in Avon can give their city the large, top-flight sports and recreation center that residents have been asking for.

    Plans call for a complex that includes a baseball stadium and a large YMCA facility with an aquatics center. Also envisioned are indoor soccer and hockey, youth soccer and baseball fields as well as walking trails.

    To pay for its construction, Issue 35 would create a 0.25 percent city income tax increase on people who work in Avon. The new tax would start Jan. 1 [2008], and cost workers $2.50 per $1,000 of earned income. Over the next two decades, it would pay down the city's estimated $20 million cost of building the recreation complex.

    Approval of Issue 35 will not tax retiree pensions, Social Security or dividends. The new tax would only affect wages earned in Avon.

    The recreation complex is to be located on 122 acres at Colorado Avenue (SR 611) and Interstate 90. The project is expected to attract additional commercial development on the surrounding 300 acres. Avon officials have hopes that the new stadium would be home to a minor league baseball team.

    The planned $14.5 million Avon YMCA facility would offer Avon residents a discount on membership. The YMCA of Greater Cleveland would operate the facility and raise $6.5 million toward its construction ...

    A survey taken by Avon several years ago found strong demand for a community recreation center and swimming pool. Issue 35 is the financial key to making that dream a reality. Mayor Jim Smith has carefully laid out the plans and sees the project as a ''must'' for the fast-growing city.

    This is a solid plan. It holds the potential for providing Avon residents much healthful enjoyment over the years. Voters can, and should, hit a home run for Avon by approving Issue 35 on the Nov. 6 ballot.''

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-21-07, by JOHN DEIKE, Morning Journal Writer

    [Baseball Stadium Progress]

    ``AVON -- ... Mayor Jim Smith ... is hustling to provide his city with multiple recreation opportunities ... Smith, Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza and two groups of architects will soon be driving to Dayton and Florence, Ky., in order to look at ball parks comparable to the one they want to build in Avon, Smith said ...

    The stadium will cost between $8 and $9.5 million, it will have a bowl shape and hold about 5,000 people, and instead of grass, artificial turf will be used, Smith said ...

    Since the $13.5 million recreation center will lie adjacent to the stadium, the two projects will be built in conjunction with each other, right off Interstate 90, Smith said.

    Within the next two weeks, Smith will choose an architect for the recreation center which he wants to have two swimming pools and fully equipped exercise areas, he said.

    One pool will be used for competitive swimming for the local schools, and one of the exercise rooms will overlook the third base line of the baseball field, Smith said.

    In terms of the budget, the Cleveland YMCA will pay for $5.5 million of the construction costs and assume the operating costs, and the city will pay for the other $8 million with the money generated from the new 0.25 percent income tax, Smith said.

    As for the baseball field, the incoming owners of the minor league team will cover 40 percent with the rest coming new income tax paying for the construction costs, and the owners will pay for the yearly maintenance of the field, he said. The baseball field will be used by the minor league team, residents and recreation baseball teams, Smith added.

    ''This multi-million dollar project will act as an economic driver for the city since hotels have shown interest in building near the planned construction site, and since developers have shown interest in building two hockey rinks in the area,'' Smith said.''

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