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Revitalizing Billtown’s Sports Swagger A Business and Community Effort

Demolition and construction. These two words equal future. As in moving forward for the best of a community, city or an area. I have always been fascinated by tearing down and rebuilding. My Mom is proud to tell that my first word was bulldozer or something that sounded like it.

As I looked in through the gaping hole at the old YMCA on Fourth Street for a second I felt sadness. I could see the basketball court where so much time was spent in my younger days. That was immediately replaced with the sound, sight and dust of demolition. The excitement of taking something down for the rebirth of something new that is bigger and better than before.

There are several projects going on or that will begin shortly. All of which will make this area we call home a better place. Now let’s take a look at two great projects going on in Williamsport. The Liberty Arena and STA Stadium.

Before I get started a special tip of the cap to Bill Holmes, Rick Thomas and the grounds crew out at Loyalsock High School. The baseball field has been immaculate. I know the fight against Mother Nature they have faced. Take a moment to thank all those locally who have been fighting the same fight so our children can enjoy a nice field for baseball and softball.

Downtown where the old YMCA is coming down, a new state of the art sports facility will be constructed. Dan Klingerman and his gang at Liberty Group, who always seem to put their money where their heart is, hope to have the Liberty Arena completed to open it later this year. What a great idea for young and old alike. To have a place to do athletic and positive things centrally located within our area.

The building I was going to construct in my backyard, Dan is putting Downtown. Just kidding but you will soon understand. There will be three turf fields, ideal for baseball training and other sports too. Batting cages, basketball courts and a trampoline park called Flyworld.

In total 81,000 square feet that will offer a wide range of sports available for the young and young at heart. Yes, Dan is a tough business man but his commitment to our area’s athletes is unprecedented. Remember the Dome? What a great place for off-season training for soccer, baseball and softball. How about the turf from the Dome that was given to the Loyalsock School District and has been used more, and for more things that anyone could have foreseen?

It is Dan’s winning approach to business that allows these projects to take place. I can’t wait to see the finished product in Williamsport. My hope is our area supports the facility and it becomes a destination for sports people from outside our area. A sports tourism destination so to speak.

Abe Badmus, is the General Manager of the arena. I remember him leading Bucknell to an upset win over Kansas several NCAA hoop tournaments ago. Larry Stout wrote a nice piece about Abe in the April 1 edition of Webb Weekly. It was his first in a series of articles about young leaders on the rise within our local communities.

I am sure Abe will handle the arena like he handled the basketball for Bucknell against Kansas. I believe he had a dozen assists and no turnovers. Dan got himself a good point person in Abe.

Dan and Mayor Gabe Campana have made things happen in Billtown. The two get things done. I also have to give an assist to Vince Matteo and the Chamber of Commerce.

And yes, for those of you wondering you will be able to find me at the new Arena throwing batting practice to Jimmy and Hunter. Dan said Webb kids hit there for free.

At the West End of Fourth Street what a great job done by the Williamsport Area School District Administration and Board on the new Middle School and Service Center. It is a first class facility that has a first class appearance both on the inside and outside.

There are more great things ahead! On May 28 the Williamsport Area School District will have a groundbreaking ceremony for the new STA Stadium at Williamsport Area High School.

A new artificial turf field, eight lane track, complete updating of the infrastructure. This is all part of the Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation’s Return to Glory Campaign.

The Williamsport Area School District Foundation has received commitments and donations of nearly $2.3 million toward the $2.7 million goal. This all has been accomplished in under two years. Great job by the Cherry and White folks and all the supporters.

I caught up with WASD Superintendant Don Adams, Athletic Director Sean McCann, Education Foundation and Public Relations Director Greg Hayes and Jeff Richards Business Manager for some insight into the “Big Renovation up on The Hill.”

“The stadium project is a community venue that will support and attract regional events, creating a huge economic boost for the entire community. We are thankful to our corporate and individual donors who have made it possible,” Mr. Adams stated.

Let’s not forget the current stadium complex is 43 years old. What a great story for the WASD Education Foundation and the Return to Glory Campaign to be able to accomplish the new STA Stadium project. This will enable WASD to host more PIAA games, band concerts and community events.

“Our students will have direct benefit from this facility for physical education, athletics and performing music,” added Mr. Adams.

Talking about the support of the Williamsport folks. I asked Mr. Hayes for his thoughts on this.

“What’s been great about the project is the community support that has been behind it. Those who have donated time and resources, or both, have helped with the success of the campaign so far. It’s created a lot of new connections, and helped us to either strengthen or forge new partnerships for the benefit of our students.” Well said Mr. Greg Hayes, isn’t that what it’s all about?

And last but definitely not least my friend and Athletic Director, Sean McCann. I simply asked him for his view as athletic director, not just about the project but his fellow colleagues.

“The Williamsport Area School District is very fortunate to have the leadership we do with the Return to Glory Campaign, under the direction of Superintendent Don Adams, Education Foundation Executive Director, Greg Hayes and Business Manager, Jeff Richards, the committee has prepared and presented an outstanding project to the school board and the Williamsport community. I am very excited for the students of WASD and the community as a whole, to have this venue for everyone to use.”

“The new track and football field project has already created excitement and enthusiasm with our students at WAHS and WAMS, the kids are talking about playing and participating on the new facility in the fall season. The local YMCA youth football program will be playing all of their home games at the new field this season as well.”

That tells us Williamsport is on the right track, educationally and athletically, it all begins with leadership. Sean also informed me Williamsport currently has over 285 student athletes participating in track. This number includes high school and middle school. The goal for the upcoming football season is to have 160 Millionaires out on the new gridiron. This is also from grades 7-12.

Thanks gentleman for your time. One last note there is also a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RASP) grant the WASD has submitted for the PA Department of Community and Eco Development to support the campaign and future vision.

Jim Webb

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