Schenectady County has finally closed on land to build three baseball diamonds for the Little League in Rotterdam, ending an exhaustive effort that started more than a decade after the organization’s existing fields were imperiled by development.
County officials announced they have formally purchased 8.7 acres off Burdeck Street from developer Timothy Larned for $260,000. The county will continue to own the land, but lease it back to the Little League at a nominal cost.
“That means clear sailing from here,” County Attorney Chris Gardner said Thursday.
Of course, the sale also means the Little League now has to start aggressively seeking funding to build the new ball fields, parking lots and concession stand associated with the project. Already, the league has about $30,000 at its disposal, which is enough to start work.
Grading could begin as early as the spring. Larned and Frank Del Gallo — a pool builder and the former supervisor of Rotterdam — have agreed to help the league level the site so that work on the first field can begin this spring.
“I’m ecstatic this is happening,” said Bob Caprara, the league’s treasurer, who spent years scouting potential sites for the fields. “It won’t be the end result, but we should be able to play baseball by 2015.”
Caprara said the county taking ownership of the fields will allow the league to seek grant funding for the remaining work. He said the league will also continue its own fundraising efforts to bring the final vision for the property to fruition.
“The first thing we have to do is get those fields built,” he said.
The protracted saga of the fields has dragged on long enough that the Rotterdam Little League has merged with another organization in town. In November, the league quietly joined with the Carman Little League, creating an organization serving roughly 500 youths.
The drive for new fields began when the lands of the former Rotterdam Republican Club on Princetown Road and North Thompson Street were sold in 2003. The property hosting three of the Rotterdam Little League’s diamonds was initially slated for a Walmart Supercenter, raising concerns that the organization could lose most of its field space.
The Republican majority on the Town Board initially proposed building a sprawling park complex across from the Rotterdam Square mall before state officials ruled the deed restrictions on the town-owned land would prohibit such development. Several years later, the county Legislature’s majority Democrats signed an option to buy land for the fields on Guilderland Avenue, only to realize that the amount of wetlands on the property would make it impossible to build the four fields needed by the league.
In 2011, county officials announced plans to buy the property off Burdeck and behind Rotterdam’s wastewater treatment plant on West Campbell Road from Larned, so that he could develop the former Republican Club into a 248-unit apartment complex. Work on the fields was supposed to begin that summer, allowing the league to open its 2012 season at the new complex.
Only negotiations over a sewer line proposal for the apartment complex stalled the town’s issuance of a building permit for the apartment project — a contingency for the sale of the property needed for the fields. Though negotiations over the sewer line were completed last year, the sale wasn’t finalized until recently.
“I am delighted that this project is going forward,” said Bob Carter, who serves as president of the merged leagues. “I look forward to providing new opportunities to our youth to play baseball.”