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City pitches lawmakers on future of Schenectady baseball fields

City pitches lawmakers on future of Schenectady baseball fields

City pitches lawmakers on future of Schenectady baseball fields
City councilors are taking a closer look at the condition at some parks, trying to map out management plans.
Photographer: GAZETTE FILE PHOTOGRAPH

SCHENECTADY — Preliminary cost estimates are in to repair the mouldering baseball infrastructure at the Fourth Street field.

Demolition costs for the clubhouse and dugout are roughly $10,000.

“I believe they should come down,” city Engineer Chris Wallin told the city Council’s Health & Recreation Committee. 

Wallin delivered the report following complaints from a neighboring homeowner that the decaying city-owned buildings at Hillhurst Park present a threat to public safety and attract drug-users and urban campers.

Wallin stopped short of deeming the infrastructure a liability, but said “the buildings and the fields are not an asset to the community.”

The long-standing agreements that saw local athletic leagues use the city's fields in exchange for upkeep have eroded alongside the shrinkage of the city's baseball culture over the years. 

City officials earlier this summer tasked the committee to weigh future uses of the field, a decision that would ideally guide a maintenance strategy for the facilities and allow the city to better allocate its limited resources.

The Health & Recreation Committee asked Wallin for a demolition estimate before making a decision. 

MICHIGAN AVENUE FIELD

Wallin also provided an update on a second baseball-related structure, the two-story concession stand at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Rutgers Street in Mont Pleasant. 

While the structure is salvageable, the projected cost for a full rehab is between $95,000 and $190,000, plus a 10 percent contingency, according to a report prepared by Schenectady-based Synthesis Architects.

The structure would also need to be brought up to code. 

“The costs here are considerable,” Wallin said. “It has bumps and bruises, but it’s not beyond saving.”

The roof is largely intact, he said, and water has not gotten into the building. But there are “constant problems” with vagrants breaking into the structure. 

The building also contains old athletic equipment from former occupants. 

BROADER DISCUSSIONS 

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said the city’s Recreational Advisory Commission receives $250,000 in annual budget funding.

“This year, I don’t recall hearing any sort of plan for that budget item,” Perazzo said after the meeting.

Funding was previously used to replace outdated playground equipment at Central Park. 

“A broader discussion would be beneficial, and also where that $250,000 in recreation money is going,” Perazzo said.

Councilman Vince Riggi said he was pleased the Michigan Avenue structure was salvageable, but acknowledged saving the building does not solve the open question of which entity would take care of the fields at either location. 

The same issue exists at the Fourth Street Field, where a city resident has pitched the city on a proposal to revitalize the site through a series of community events.

The city should sign an “iron-clad” agreement with any outside group wishing to oversee maintenance, Riggi said. 

“People need to promise they’re going to take care of the field,” he said. “It hasn’t happened.”

Mayor Gary McCarthy said there are numerous options for charting a path forward, from working on a long-term rebuilding plan or working to transition the sites out of city stewardship.

But, McCarthy said: “There’s no simple solution. The community interest has waned.”

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