Veterans Park is a beautiful place. I hope you’ve been there in the summer, when it’s bustling with kids playing soccer, baseball, and softball. There is over 120 acres of sports fields and green space. It was part of the original Master Plan done by Jim Sharpe in 1992, and is now home to a variety of sports facilities, the Grand Island Memorial Library and the Miracle League Field.
You might not know the field’s history. The land was donated to the Town by the Funk family in the 1950s. (Hats off to my good friend Terry Funk—the Islander, not the wrestler.) Thanks to their generosity, residents have been able to enjoy this land for generations. The park was used as a baseball field from the beginning, and many more amenities have been added since then.
Now, Veterans Park is a great name, and it’s certainly appropriate to honor the men and women who have served our country, but imagine if it had been named after the donor, like many spaces are. Funk Field would have had a heck of a ring to it!
Talk of a pavilion
There has been talk of a pavilion at Veterans Park since before I became Supervisor. I think it’s a great idea. There’s no shelter from the elements, and kids often spend the whole day at the park for tournaments and games. It would be nice to have a roof and some benches where they could go to wait out the rain, or to take a break from the beating sun.
Since I started, it’s been a two-year battle with various members of the Town Board to get this thing built. The first issue was the electric. The Town Board finally approved approximately $50,000 to upgrade the electric at Veterans Park, so now we don’t have to worry about blown fuses and tripped breakers and sparking wires.
From Cadillac to Pinewood Derby
Then, a few members of the Town Board came forward with an elaborate design. It would've cost about a million bucks to complete. This thing looked like a ski lodge. I said “No way.” I suggested a more modest design, or breaking the project into phases.
So they went from the Cadillac version to the cobbled-together-on-a-napkin version. These men are not engineers or architects, so it was just some sketches. It looked cool, and their friends were going to help build it. (Does this sound anything like the community center fiasco?) But it was progress. So I bent, and said, “Go ahead.” They bought materials, and found a guy to slap it together.
But our Engineering Department stepped in. They said the design was not sound, and that the pavilion would literally fall down and kill someone. We were back to square one, except now we had a pile of pieces we’d paid for.
Picking up the pieces
Now we are working to salvage what materials we can, and design a solid pavilion that will last for years. An architect is working with our engineers to come up with the best solution. I hope we will start building this year. We’ll do it in small bites if we have to, but I will push for a vote to approve it soon. There will be a pavilion at Veterans Park — excuse me, Funk Field — before long.
Postscript: a slight detour
I recently took a day trip to Welland, Ontario with my family. If you’ve never been to Welland, it’s a neat little town. We visited Merritt Island Park, where you can see the Welland River flow UNDER the Welland Canal. (Check out the book “Secret Places: Scenic Treasures of Western New York and Southern Ontario,” by Bruce Kershner if you’re looking for gorgeous places to visit in our area. I’d like to get Burnt Ship Creek on Grand Island in the next edition!)
While I was at the park, I noticed their bridge. It’s a rusty hulk of a structure during the day, but at night it’s lit up with spectacular LED lights. I remain committed to the goal of getting lights on our bridges. Lights are welcoming, and draw people in. Look at Buffalo: they’re reviving their waterfront with lights — and the Peace Bridge looks amazing, too. If Welland can do it, we can do it. Let’s light up Grand Island!