SCHENECTADY -- Central Park has been referred to as Schenectady's "Crown Jewel," and work on the park this spring is aimed a making it shine a bit brighter.
Baseball games have already been played on the park's signature baseball field -- alternately called A Diamond and Buck Ewing Field -- and work on one of the park's other venues, the Agnes Macdonald Music Haven Stage, is nearing completion prior to the opening of its 2018 summer season.
"We're trying to make Central Park better every year, and I'm very pleased with the progress we've made," said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy. "There is still work to be done and that will continue to be phased in over the year. We're working on getting more baseball games scheduled on the A Diamond, and the Music Haven is looking good. When the work gets done, it will be an upgraded facility that I hope will spur other performances there, along with our Sunday night Music Haven series."
The A Diamond features new artificial turf, and extensive renovation of the Music Haven stage has included the installation of 460 permanent, stadium-style seats since that work began in the fall. The Music Haven upgrade is just about done, and city officials plan to mark the project's completion on May 24, with a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. in Central Park.
The recent improvements have been in the works since the city received a $1.5 million grant from the state Assembly in August of 2015.
Central Park's tennis facility was upgraded with some funds from that grant during the summer of 2017; work on the A Diamond and Music Haven began in September.
"It's wonderful to see the plan come to life," said Mona Golub, Music Haven's volunteer producing artistic director since 1990. "These improvements serve to expand what was already a fabulous venue into a most distinctive and welcoming outdoor concert hall."
Along with the state grant, the Music Haven renovation funded with private donations raised through the organization's House & Hill Campaign. Those who donated $125 (for a brick) or $250 (for a seat) will soon get their first look at the completed work. Along with the permanent seating, Music Haven renovations include an improved terraced hill for lawn chairs and blankets and a security gate to protect the stage when not in use.
Music Haven, which will announce its 2018 season on Thursday, has been offering free concerts in Central Park since 1990. The concerts are held at 7 p.m. on Sundays throughout the summer months. The musical offering is diverse, with artists hailing from all over the world and presenting work from their own cultures.
Baseball fields have long been a part of Central Park's history, which dates to 1912. The A Diamond was renamed Buck Ewing Field in 1983, after the former catcher of the Mohawk Giants, a black baseball team based in Schenectady, passed away in 1979. Ewing, arguably the best player the team ever produced, played for the Mohawks during the 1920s before leaving the area in 1929 to play for the Homestead Grays, one of the best teams at the top level of the "Negro Leagues."
Ewing returned to play for the Mohawks in 1937 and lived out his life in Schenectady.