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West Side group sets its sights on Skiddy

In the daylight, Skiddy Park is a little green gem of outdoor space on the Near Westside.

The park boasts a baseball diamond, basketball courts, a tennis court, a handball court and a playground. It's the park that the b.i.k.e. Syracuse program calls home and the immediate neighborhood it serves includes Blodgett K-8, St. Lucy's Academy, the Spanish Action League, Shonnard Street Boys and Girls Club, and PEACE Inc.'s Westside Family Resource Center.

It fills the city block bordered by Otisco and Tully Streets to the north and south, and Oswego and Tioga Streets to the west and east.

But the park is also the landscape for vandalism, seedy dealings and shoot-outs. Skiddy Park, the heart of the West Side, is only half beating.

A new fundraising effort by the Near Westside Initiative is hoping to pump new life into the park.

The NWSI is seeking donations for three initiatives: to bring a youth soccer program to the park, renovate the playground area and re-open the concession stand.

All three projects aim to bring back features that once existed. The soccer program used to draw more than 50 young athletes to the park for games and clinics, but when funding dried up the program disappeared. Same goes for the concession stand -- what's now a cinder-block storage shed used to offer lemonade and popcorn during little league baseball games. The NWSI doesn't intend to build a concession stand, just to reopen the existing facility and bring back what used to exist.

The playground equipment -- used, abused and now much of it in disrepair -- needs to be replaced and updated.

What stands out about this effort is the NWSI's goal to give new life to the foundation that already exists. The plan isn't to build an entirely new concession stand with a sparkling commercial kitchen and fully-enclosed dining area for 1,000 people. Rather, they want to open up the shutters and get the popcorn machine popping.

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