North York residents react to plans to redevelop Central High athletic field

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

A developer has big plans to transform the site of the former Central York High School athletic field into a recreational sports complex — something akin to Lancaster County's popular Spooky Nook Sports.

But some North York residents are skeptical.

"I think it's a great idea," resident Emily Marie said, "but my concern is: Will it be affordable for local kids or is it going to just be a money maker for those proposing this idea?"

The property has languished for years without any movement toward redevelopment — despite previous attempts by others. That includes local restaurant owner Themistoklis Sacarellos, whose proposal to turn the space into a warehouse was rejected by the Borough Council in 2021.

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Earlier this month, Inch and Co. Construction presented a concept that could change the face of North York borough if it moves forward.

While nothing has been officially proposed or submitted yet, members of Inch and Co. laid out framework for what the sports complex could do for the economy of North York. They hope that their proposal, if realized, would be similar to Spooky Nook.

Interstate-83, at left, near the former Central York High School athletic field in North York Borough, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Spooky Nook Sports, located in Manheim, Lancaster County, is the largest indoor sports complex in the United States offering indoor fields and courts for more than a dozen sports, according to its website. The Nook also offers outdoor recreation opportunities —  making it a hot destination for clubs, tournaments and competitions.

Some residents think a similar complex would be a positive change to the borough's landscape — while others have more questions about logistics.

North York resident Lindsey Smith, for instance, thinks having a sports training arena right in her backyard would be a welcome addition for her family.

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"North York borough is a bittersweet area to live in," Smith said. "Having something so big and positive — along with increasing the activity in the borough — would push out a lot of the negative activity."

She added that an attraction like a sports complex could help bring more foot traffic to local businesses and restaurants. 

The developers' concept would create several athletic and fitness areas open to the public at large across a 250,000-square-foot property, including an indoor facility.

"What this building does is it brings a lot of community to this area," CEO Jeff Inch said. "Special Olympics, senior games, stuff like that can be held here — where there isn't a building in York County to do that." 

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Neither concept drawings nor building models could be made available publicly because they haven't been finalized yet, according to Cambria Bailey, a spokesperson for the developers.

North York Mayor Nancy Brunk raised a financial question similar to the one Marie raised during a council meeting earlier this month: Who makes money off this and will it be affordable? 

Other residents, including Kathlene Zeigler and Justin Paneto, questioned how traffic through the borough would change with a complex of this size.

While Inch and Co. Construction did not elaborate on how much the facility would cost to use, Inch said the goal is not to make money for the developers.

"The largest health care provider in York wants to be a part of this," he said during Tuesday's meeting. "There will be a very large amount of money given by them to us to help build this."

Likewise, the developers would not name their prospective partner.

For now, at least, the project is merely an idea. Over the next few months it's expected to go through the same scrutiny earlier plans for the site have.

"We have spent several hundred thousand dollars already," Inch said earlier this month. "If you guys can get behind it, this is a shot for us to make this thing right." 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.