The Shuttleworth Park Foundation is seeking to raise $1.5 million over the next five years to restore the city park to its former glory.
The nonprofit organization’s first fundraisers toward its goal are Saturday and Aug. 18 at the park. The first features amateur boxing matches, the second a concert, car show and bike show.
“We want to revamp the entire park from top to bottom and make it what it used to be in the 1930s and 1940s,” said Dan Nelli, a board member of the foundation.
In its heyday, the park was a place where the crack of a wooden bat was a siren’s call and thousands would come to play and relax. It also was a place that once played host to legends from the New York Yankees.
The foundation wants to pave the park’s walking trail, re-dam the pond for fishing contests in the summer and skating in the winter, put in girls’ softball fields, enhance the children’s park, install lights over the main baseball field, and build a pole barn, a party pavilion and a concert dome.
“Our big push is the next two years. In two years, it will be Shuttleworth Park’s centennial and we would like to get it ready for that,” Nelli said.
Proceeds from the two events will be used as seed money for larger fundraising efforts, he said. “This money will cover startup costs for going out to solicit other money and to build different aspects of our fundraiser efforts.”
The foundation formed about four years ago and attained its nonprofit status last year.
Proceeds will also be used to maintain the park, home to the Amsterdam Mohawks baseball team. The Mohawks are members of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, an eight-team collegiate summer baseball league. Nelli is assistant general manager for the team.
The Mohawks started playing at Shuttleworth 10 years ago, and the ball club has helped revitalize the park during this time, he said. The club leases the park from the city and shares maintenance costs with it.
Now is the time to take the park to the next level, Nelli said. “We want to enhance what is there. We want to bring what is down there to the best level we can,” he said.
Shuttleworth Park has a rich history. City archives show it opened Memorial Day 1914 as Crescent Park and was a self-contained entertainment emporium, offering a smorgasbord of activities.
The park had a dance hall, shooting gallery, motion picture theater and miniature railroad. People could boat and bathe on “Lake Crescent,” or they could watch a baseball game. Admission to the game was free but admission to the grounds was 5 cents.
During the 1930s, Mohawk Carpet Mills bought the park, renamed it Mohawk Mills Park and closed the entertainment venue. The park was later called Jollyland.
In the 1942, when baseball was a nationwide passion, the New York Yankees came to Amsterdam to play the local team, the Amsterdam Rugmakers. The 1942 Yankees boasted legends such as Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Gordon, but the team struggled to beat the Rugmakers 9-5 in 10 innings.
When the Yankees came to town July 20, 1942, thousands of fans greeted them like heroes at the train station. They showered their idols with cheers and tons of crepe paper as the ballplayers drove through the city to the park. Bands played and businesses closed their doors in their honor.
As quoted by David Pietrusza in his book, Jack Smith of the New York Daily News, accompanying the Yankees on their visit, captured the spirit of the day: “I felt like a red corpuscle the other day, or perhaps it was a white one. My travels with the Yanks carried me through the bloodstream of baseball and finally into the City of Amsterdam, N.Y. (pop. 35,000), pumped me into the heart of the game itself. Rising industriously on the banks of the Mohawk River, the city is deep in the Class C minors. But for sheer love of baseball, enthusiasm and support it outstrips major league owners, officials and fans. It reflects the pure, wholesome attachment of American people for the game.”
Then, as now, Shuttleworth Park “is a great place for baseball,” Nelli said. His goal is to make it even better.
Tickets for the fundraisers can be purchased by phone at 320-4868 or through email at [email protected]. Tickets are also for sale at Alteri’s Autobody and the Hagaman Barbershop, as well as at the gate on the day of the shows.