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NCCC athletics deserves upgraded athletic facilities

Thu, Apr 4th 2019 01:00 pm

By William Ross

Chairman, NCCC Board of Trustees

Past chairman, Niagara County Legislature

Niagara County Community College was established in 1962 and was temporarily located in downtown Niagara Falls. 

In 1972, NCCC moved to its new permanent location in Sanborn, which is centrally located in Niagara County. The new 285-acre Sanborn campus could provide for future expansion if needed. 

At that time, indoor and outdoor athletic facilities were being created on the campus. These were not available at NCCC’s downtown Niagara Falls locations. During the early years of NCCC’s intercollegiate athletics program, the school used rental facilities for its limited sports program. 

The college’s first director of athletics, Roy Sommer, along with his staff, quickly began to build a highly-regarded and well-respected intercollegiate athletics program, particularly in men’s basketball, wrestling and bowling. Sommer and fellow coaches Dan Bazzani and Eric Knuutila made national headlines. Bazzani led his men’s basketball team to the 1977-78 NJCAA championship game, Knuutila has been part of 22 regional championships with the wrestling program and Sommer helped the men’s bowling team win a pair of NJCAA titles. 

In more recent years, NCCC has seen success in women’s volleyball, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, wrestling, baseball and golf. 

Coach Matt Clingersmith’s baseball teams have won five regional titles and twice finished as the NJCAA runners-up. 

Men’s basketball coach Bill Beilein has had several outstanding basketball seasons, including a regional championship in 2016-17, and in the current season, his team earned a berth in the NJCAA Division II championships in the Danville, Illinois, before losing out in the outstanding junior college basketball competition. 

Women’s basketball coach Nate Beutel had a 31-0 record before heading to the national competition where his team lost a heartbreaker game by one point. A fantastic NCCC women’s basketball team. 

A problem does exist with NCCC’s sports facilities, though, many of which are approximately 45 years old. There have been some improvements over the years with a new gym floor, bleachers and an undersized physical fitness/weight room. There were very few improvements made to the outdoor sports facilities over the years. Currently, there are no permanent bleachers, no spectator parking, no permanent restrooms, no press box and no concession stand in the baseball, softball, soccer and multi-field outdoor sport facilities area. Easily, six of the 10 scholastic public school districts located in Niagara County have better sport facilities than Niagara County Community College. 

An NCCC Athletic Facility Task Force was established last April and is working towards the completion of a feasibility study to update the sport facilities at the college. The task force wants to place NCCC with comparative sport facilities enjoyed by the greater majority of the 30 community colleges located within New York state. 

Currently, the feasibility study includes a new physical fitness area, more locker room space, additional wrestling space and an officials locker room. The new outdoor sports facilities would include synthetic turf baseball, softball and multi-purpose sport fields. There would also be restrooms, a press box, concession stand and spectator parking. 

The total cost of these improvements would be approximately $8-10 million. The State University of New York would provide half of the cost, with NCCC looking for grants, NCCC Foundation support and benefactors to cover the other half. 

The upgrading of the athletic facilities at NCCC is a great undertaking, which is going to take a collective effort to achieve. But it is sorely needed. 

Yes, NCCC is one of the best of the 30 community colleges located within New York state. The college enrolls 5,200 students in over 60 degree and certificate programs, including 10 complete online degrees. NCCC has on-campus student housing, 40 clubs and organizations and is a top school for veterans to attend. It’s home to several nationally-ranked competitive NJCAA men’s and women’s teams, along with many academic and athletic All-Americans, who have generated great pride for NCCC and the Greater Niagara community. These coaches, teams and athletes need the upgrades to the indoor and outdoor sports facilities to continue the proud tradition of the NCCC intercollegiate sports programs. 

Former Director of Athletics such as Sommer, Lee Wallace and Robert McKeown, along with current AD Amanda Haseley have worked hard to hire good coaches and improve the sport facilities for NCCC student-athletes as best as they could. The time has arrived to support the NCCC intercollegiate sports program with a major upgrade of the indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. 

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