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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Town, village officials moving forward with exploration of Dick’s Sporting Goods

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MASSENA - Despite objections from some residents, town and village officials agreed Tuesday night to move forward with exploring the possibility of bringing a Dick’s Sporting Goods to Massena, even if it meant taking some land away from the Massena Arena complex.

Thomas Sullivan, executive director of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena, told members of both boards that if they were interested in Dick’s coming to Massena, they needed to make that known to Michael Wachs, owner of the Harte Haven Shopping Plaza.

Mr. Wachs has suggested putting the store on a field behind the Massena Arena that’s currently used for softball and soccer. There is also the possibility that, if the store came, the area currently housing the arena annex would also need to be used as part of the development.

The question right now, Mr. Sullivan said, is if town and village officials are interested in locating Dick’s at that site and, if so, sharing their support with Mr. Wachs.

“The town and village need to decide, do they want to do anything with the property. If not, they can say they’re not interested. If they are, they need to set a price,” Mr. Sullivan said.

He said they also needed to determine if a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store would even fit on that site.

“To think somebody’s going to drop it there, that’s not feasible,” Mr. Sullivan said.

“There are lots of Dick’s stores. Some are big, some aren’t,” Councilman John F. Macaulay said.

Mr. Sullivan suggested that at some point the boards needed to let Mr. Wachs know if they were interested.

“Whatever you decide, please communicate that,” he said.

Some community members in the audience thought the boards should say no to the idea.

Speaking highly of the Massena Arena facilities, Massena Minor Hockey President Karen Chauvin said they should not let the property go to a retailer. She noted the number of achievements Massena’s hockey programs at the minor hockey, high school and college levels had produced this year, in part because of the availability of the Massena Arena’s facilities.

“We could not have done it without all the ice,” Ms. Chauvin said.

Speaking to Mayor James F. Hidy, she said, “To think we’re negotiating with Dick’s Sporting Goods to come in and change all of that, it’s ludicrous, Jimmy. It’s a positive environment and you cannot take that away. We can’t even take the annex away because it’s being used all the time.”

She suggested the only reason Dick’s would consider Massena would be for the money.

“You close that arena, your political career is over,” Ms. Chauvin said.

Mr. Hidy quickly pointed out that taking down the arena for the retail store was “Plan A,” which was quickly dismissed.

“That arena’s still going to be there. We asked for Plan B right away. Hypothetically there are two plats they’re looking at - one behind the arena and one that includes the annex. I’m not in favor of tearing down the arena or annex at all,” he said.

He said one plot of land is 2.5 acres, while the other is 1.4 acres. A photograph he showed the audience indicated what areas could be impacted.

“I invite you to come down and take a look. Looking at the picture doesn’t do a thing to show how it would impact (the area),” Recreation Commission Chairman David M. MacLennan said.

George Trippany, a member of the Massena Joint Recreation Commission, wondered why the annex would have to be considered at all.

“Why would it have to be included? Who’s going to make that decision?” he wondered.

“I’m only saying to do it if it needs to be moved,” Mr. Macaulay said.

Recreation Superintendent Richard A. Boprey said that, if the annex was involved, they would need to think about building another one at a site such as their Howard Street rink or Alcoa Field.

“You can’t just pick it up and move it,” he said, noting that some of the cost would include pouring concrete on the ground.

Parent Cassie McNeill also shared her concerns with the boards, suggesting that the group Dick’s would cater to would not use the store because of what they would have taken away from Massena’s youth.

“Why would Dick’s want to take away from people purchasing from them?” she said, suggesting there were other potential sites for the store, including behind Tractor Supply.

Ms. McNeill also wondered where the soccer players ages 6 and under who currently use the field would go if Dick’s took that location.

Mr. Hidy suggested there were several sites, including Alcoa Field and Bushnell Field.

“We can put soccer and baseball fields anywhere. We’ve got a dying community that needs revenue. This place is going to create decent revenues,” he said. “We’re acting on emotions here.”

Mr. Sullivan said he had shared that same sentiment when he had talked with Mr. Wachs.

“I understand the emotion in the community. I told him there was a lot of emotion in the community. This will not happen overnight,” he said.

“We need to think about this with our head and not our heart. We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘No,this is not going to happen here.’ We cannot defend that anymore,” Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said.

Officials from both boards agreed that they should move forward, suggesting that there were other locations for the playing fields.

“The big question is, what is worth?” We can get a new better annex somewhere else. We can get a soccer field somewhere else. Dick’s Sporting Goods could be a big economic benefit for Massena,” Mr. Macaulay said.

Trustee Francis J. Carvel, however, wasn’t sure what value the store would provide in the years ahead. He suggested that major retailers come into a community, maximize their profits and then leave in some cases.

He was also not sold on the site location.

“Mr. Wachs has a lot of acreage. If he’s so interested, put a road in tomorrow and starting doing what he wants to do,” Mr. Carvel said, pointing to the land between Tractor Supply and the railroad tracks in the Parker Avenue area.

Ultimately, members of both boards agreed to move forward. But the process is far from over. Mr. Hidy and Mr. Gray said that, because the land is protected under New York State Parks, they would need special legislation to sell it. Local officials also said revenue from the sale would be required to go back to the recreation programs.

They would also need to have the land appraised. Officials said the land, based on comparable sales, is valued at $800,000. Board members suggested that Mr. Wachs pay for another appraisal using a firm recommended by the town and village.

“If he wants to build, let him do the appraisal,” Councilman Thomas Miller said.

Even if Mr. Wachs purchased the property and wasn’t successful in landing a Dick’s Sporting Good store, Mr. Macaulay said they would still be ahead.

“He’s going to pay tax on the property. That’s $40,000 more a year we’ve got if nothing’s done,” he said.

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