Ducks stadium needs $600,000 in Sandy fixes
Originally published: December 11, 2012 3:55 PM
Updated: December 11, 2012 5:58 PM
By RICK BRAND
Suffolk lawmakers learned Tuesday of the latest casualty of superstorm Sandy -- the county's $17 million ballpark in Central Islip, which lost the bulk of its roof in the disaster.
Frank Boulton, chief executive of the Long Island Ducks baseball team, asked the legislature's budget committee to authorize spending $600,000 of a $796,000 county fund set aside for upkeep of the 6,000 seat stadium to pay for emergency repairs. The measure was approved unanimously and will go to the full legislature Tuesday.
The curved roof, which had covered the Bethpage Stadium's skyboxes and the restaurant behind home plate, was lost in the Oct. 29 storm. Damage to the restaurant and sky boxes are still being assessed.
The park suffered the most damage of any county structure, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
"There are a lot of damages that have to be addressed before we throw out the first pitch," said Boulton.
Boulton urged lawmakers to work with him to develop a plan to replenish the maintenance fund, which was intended not for major emergencies but routine capital expenditures for seats, railings and field lights.
Boulton said the maintenance fund could be replenished by using money that now is going to pay back bonds on the original construction. Bond costs this year are $562,000 but will decline to $146,000 by 2019, the last year before they are paid off.
Under the $14.4 million state grant that helped pay for construction of the ballpark, county officials agreed to create a fund in which they would place $90,000 annually to maintain the complex. That money comes out of the nearly $900,000 in annual revenues the county receives from the team, including $350,000 from ticket sales, $120,000 for sky boxes and $255,000 in ad revenue.
Gilbert Anderson, county public works commissioner, said Suffolk will seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the roof work. He said the county cannot wait to issue bonds because it would delay repairs by several months.
"These are obvious emergency repairs that need to be done," Anderson said.Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) warned that Suffolk still is facing fiscal problems, and that there may be pressure to use the FEMA money in other ways.
"Do we want to put it into the sinking fund or do we need it here, there and anywhere?" he asked.
Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) said investment in the ballpark attracts patrons who spend money in local restaurants, gas stations and stores.