Planned Holcomb razing stirs debate on loss of space, services

As plans to demolish the Holcomb building in favor of a stadium progress, the challenges and opportunities that have emerged are already generating widespread and heated public discourse. The impact falls on Geneseo's campus and community alike.

The committee examining plans for a new stadium to be constructed in place of Holcomb is also working on a joint venture to establish YMCA facilities west of the ice arena.

"I'm very certain that Holcomb is going to be razed shortly," said business professor Daniel Strang, who serves on the committee. "I think the value of the new stadium outweighs what we get from Holcomb. Having said that, there are some important things that have to happen. We've got to find another place to deal with the recreational activities for people in the community and for the college."

Director of Athletics Marilyn Moore predicted that little to no action would take place before 2010 and added that the YMCA "could come before the stadium," which would potentially provide alternative space.

Should Holcomb be replaced, student groups, club sports, education classes, Geneseo Central High School and Special Olympics would all suffer the loss of a central location for programming, events and recreation. Livingston-Wyoming Arc, which provides services for disabled people, and Micro Enterprise, an organization that supports Main Street businesses, would also be affected.

Former director of the College Union Kathy Trainor sympathized with the organizations that might lose access to Holcomb.

"One of the hardest things to find is a time and place for students to relax and be themselves," Trainor said. "If we take Holcomb offline and don't replace it, we'll really hurt ourselves."

According to Trainor, "We are all working on behalf of students, but we should be very careful to examine the whole picture for the benefit of our college. There are a variety of perspectives, and I think it's extremely important to see all of them."

Positively, the YMCA may expand opportunities currently exclusive to Holcomb.

"If we get this [the YMCA]," Strang said, "we'll have recreational facilities, daycare, places for the elderly, manageable memberships for students and employment." Strang added that issues should be considered on a long-term scale.

"If all the benefits are going to be moved to a better facility, then I think [razing Holcomb] is a great idea," he said. "But there's going to be a period of time when we have to lose some of those things."

According to Jim Kimball of the music department, whose interests in Arc and recreational basketball drew his attention to the issue, "There is other space where you can put the stadium quite logically and keep the Holcomb building."

Moore, however, said that space availability is an issue, and that there's nowhere else on campus that the stadium could go.

Voices from the village are already speaking on the issue.

According to Village Trustee Bill Lofquist, "The village is developing plans to upgrade its parks and recreation facilities… and is working with the college and other community groups in this process." These plans include efforts for securing access to Holcomb.

Livingston-Wyoming Arc rents 35,000 square feet of Holcomb five days a week, 12 hours a day. Arc's daycare, preschool, early intervention, speech therapy and evaluation services all rely on Holcomb. Arc representatives have been discussing possible alternatives with the college for the past year.

According to Martin Miskell, Arc's associate executive director and chief financial officer, "There are a lot of uses for the building that are not fully realized… There's a lot of synergy between us and the college. It has worked out very well, and we'd be very sad to see it go."