New sports facility approved for South Buffalo next to chemical plant

May 8, 2018

Over objections from an adjacent major employer, the city Planning Board has approved construction of a sports field and large indoor field house in an industrial section of South Buffalo.

South Buffalo Development is planning the sports facility around 85 Lee Street, part of what was once a heavily contaminated chemical complex.

On one side is PVS Chemicals, which annually makes 200,000 tons of sulfuric acid supplied by 7,000 truckloads of chemicals. The company did not want the sports complex and the people who would come into the neighborhood.

The two sides could not reach an agreement on major changes in the layout of the facility, which will be rented to high school and college sports teams, with a mix of uses similar to Canisius College's Demske complex. The new facility is expected to become the home field for Medaille College.

"Your small inner-city colleges are landlocked. They have no place to go," said South Buffalo Development owner John Williams. "So what happens is they bus their students a long distance for practices and they lose class time because you're in the bus for 45 minutes or an hour, going to and coming from the practice. This field allows them to get back and forth within 15 or 20 minutes. So it's ideal and it really makes them more competitive from a scheduling standpoint because now they can add additional classes to schedules."

Williams said the facility also fits with the mixed urban feel of Buffalo.

"We're an industrial city, right? The coolest thing about Buffalo is that you're not in Amherst, right?" said South Buffalo Development owner John Williams. "You're in this urban area that's active and it has industry and commercial and restaurants and hotels and it's fun. I'll tell you, people who come to RiverWorks, you see them sitting on the street, watching the trains and the boats because you never see that."

PVS lawyer Corey Auerbach said the company is studying what it might do legally, although the plant will continue its 130-year-old manufacturing operations with 50 highly-paid workers.

"Certainly, PVS will explore whatever the options are that are available to them," said Auerbach. "It's unfortunate that the applicant was unwilling to work with his neighbor to improve the project, and if people want to enjoy outdoor recreation on top of a contaminated site in the shadow of a sulfuric acid manufacturing plant, the Planning Board has now given them the authority to do that."

Buffalo Planning Board site plan for facility.
Credit Fisher Associates