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Field of dreams in Buffalo needs cash to become reality

| Sunday, May 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
160 acres of land sit vacant as a developer seeks investor(s) to secure a $2 million down payment needed to finance an expansive sports complex near the intersection of Sarver Road and South Pike roads in Buffalo. Photographed on Tuesday May 7, 2013.

The clock is ticking on land purchase agreements as a developer tries to gather $2 million needed to receive financing for an expansive sports complex proposed for Buffalo Township.

“It's a big concern because anyone who is selling real estate, they want to sell it and move on,” said Michael DeRiso, of Oakmont, who is partnering with local businessmen Richard Burkhart and Dennis Cochran on the project.

The sports complex is to be located on about 160 acres near the intersection of Sarver Road and South Pike Road. A 71-acre parcel is owned by the Betty Risch estate, of which Buffalo Township Supervisor Gary Risch Sr. is co-executor. The developers also have an option to buy a neighboring 91-acre farm on Parker Road.The landowners have given extensions on the purchase agreements, but DeRiso said he's unsure how much longer they're willing to wait.

The $2 million down payment is the bank's final requirement before releasing financing for the $20 million project.

He said he's had some calls from investors and is speaking with a New York company interested in the development.

“We are looking for somebody or somewhere to bring $2 million to the table for an equity interest — whether it's four people, 10 people or one person,” DeRiso said.

They're ready to go when they get the money, he said.

“We have some serious money and we've spent a lot of that getting the architect and everything we need to plan this thing,” DeRiso said. “If we purchased the land today, it would be five months before we broke ground, then 10 months to construct it.”

Risch said the estate extended the purchase deadline until the end of June. He couldn't say whether another extension would be given.

From the township's perspective the complex would “be a big plus for the community.”

“If it goes through it will be fantastic,” said Risch.

Since the sports complex was first announced last May, the developers have increased the size of both the indoor and outdoor spaces.

The building is now proposed to be 300,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet larger than originally planned. It will house a baseball field, four basketball courts that will double as dek hockey rinks and a soccer field/practice football field.

The number of outdoor facilities more than doubled to nine ball fields, six soccer/lacrosse fields and eight basketball courts along with several playgrounds.

Plans call for lights and turf on a number of the outdoor fields, DeRiso said.

He said his partners came up with the idea for the sports complex while traveling with their kids for sporting events.

“Western Pennsylvania is in dire need of a comprehensive indoor-outdoor sports training facility not only to serve the talent we have in Western PA, but the school districts, and to compete on a national level,” DeRiso said.

He said Buffalo Township is an ideal location.

“It's developing and it's right off of Route 28, which is accessible from any major interstate,” he said.

A multi-use facility would be a great benefit to local athletes, said Andrew Krahe, president of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association and athletic director and co-principal of Harbor Creek High School near Erie.

“You're opening yourself up to opportunities for the off-season,” he said. “As far as state competitions, the PIAA could certainly entertain using a complex such as this for something like soccer playoffs.”

Krahe said booster groups likely would need to pick up the tab of using such a facility, because many school districts are on operating on tighter budgets.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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