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Private donations sought for sports complex

| Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Allegheny County will seek donations to help convert an industrial site in Coraopolis, Moon and Robinson into a public sports complex, officials said Tuesday.

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said the development at Montour Junction along the Ohio River just east of the Coraopolis Bridge, would require between $70,000 to $80,000 in environmental cleanup. He estimated construction of the complex could cost between $10 million and $15 million.

The 10-year-old Sports Legacy Foundation, which has spent about $600,000 to fix the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad yard, donated the 78-acre parcel to the county's Redevelopment Authority.

Onorato said he would seek private and foundation donations for the remediation and the construction of the facility, which would feature several multi-use sports fields that could be used for football, rugby, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer and other facilities.

"This is a way to preserve waterfront property and ... to transform this old brownfield into a new, world-class recreational facility," Onorato said.

The foundation has, for several years, been seeking a place to build nontraditional athletic fields, said chairman Paul Heasley. A semi-retired businessman from Rostraver, Heasley is the founder and former owner of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a member of the United Soccer Leagues' Second Division.

By turning the land over to the county, Heasley said, "you have far greater access to funds than what a private foundation could do."

In September, Onorato formed the nonprofit Allegheny County Parks Foundation, and pledged in January to match dollar-for-dollar up to $10 million private contributions for county park maintenance. Onorato said money for the Montour Junction project would be "a separate ask."

"I am personally going to go knocking on the doors of every foundation that I've been working with as it relates to green sites and park renovations, " Onorato said. "There's a strong interest in the foundation community to take back riverfronts, to preserve green space. I believe they're going to be a willing partner with the county to get this done."

The Montour Trail will be extended by a mile across the property, Onorato said. A master plan for the project is underway and should be completed within about four months.

Former Steelers kicker Matt Bahr pledged his support to the project. Now a South Hills resident and founder of a youth fitness foundation called "Get Fit," he said he would work on raising money and "help in any way I can."

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