Wahconah Park Restoration Committee Hears Timeline from OPM
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city has hired an owner's project manager (OPM) that envisions the new Wahconah Park being ready for use by the summer of 2025.
On Monday the Wahconah Park Restoration Committee had its first public meeting with Skanska USA, who was hired out of three responses to a request for services issued in the fall.
John Benzinger, Dale Caldwell, and Craig Spice of the firm laid out the path forward for the foundational work of the project. Skanska was also the OPM for the $120 million rebuild of Taconic High School.
The OPM acts on behalf of the owner in the planning, design, construction, commissioning, and closeout phases.
They first recommended putting out a request for services to hire an architect or designer to understand what the build will look like. A rebuild, restoration, or a hybrid of both are still on the table.
"We need a designer to help us evaluate whether a renovation is feasible and what that would look like and what a new option would look like and what a hybrid would look like. Then we will put numbers on that cost-wise," Benzinger explained.
"So there's a public procurement process that we have to follow to engage with the designer and really the first phase of their work would be a feasibility study, which would be looking at these three different options we have and make a recommendation to you folks on what they recommend."
The team envisioned that the design would be complete by February or March of next year, and bidding and work could begin by August of 2024 after the Pittsfield Sun's season. This would mean a ballpark would be ready for use by the summer of 2025.
The city is working with an earmarked $3 million from the state that was secured by Congressman Richard Neal and $2 million that was appropriated through the last capital budget cycle by the city council.
The project is expected to cost at least $10 million.
Parks, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said that there is plenty of available cash for the OPM and the architect. The rest will require fundraising and time to identify where the resources will come from.
The designer selection will be similar to the selection of the OPM and because of the high ticket cost, the project will trigger a state-mandated procurement process. A handful of members from the committee will work on it.
Chair Earl Persip III asked where the public comment period fits into the process, and the team said it will likely occur during the feasibility study.
"I think part of our goal when we walked around the park was to talk about the overall park, the vision of the whole piece of property, all that city-owned property, not just the ballpark," Persip said.
"I think that needs to be just put out in the forefront to remember that our ultimate goal is to make it kind of an attraction to the whole area."
Members of the panel also laid out a list of other wants for the rebuild such as addressing drainage, facilities, concessions, and opening the park's possibilities to other uses so it can generate new revenue.
Though baseball will always be the number one use, concerts and football games are other potential uses.
"One of my main goals, and I talked with people about this, was that the park be able to generate income to keep preventative maintenance going," Persip said.
"Just having a baseball team, as much as we all love the Suns, doesn't support the operations of the park and that's why it's gone down now so have the park being able to hold other events to generate revenue."
He added that they still want to respect that it is a baseball park and not hold any events that will compromise the field.
"I think everything's on the table right now," Persip said.
"And funding is an important part but right now in the beginning stages, I think we need to kind of just throw everything at it."
There was some question raised about the upcoming municipal election and if it would hinder support for the project with possible new leadership.
It was pointed out that there hasn't been negative feedback on the endeavor, and it is the committee's job to make a recommendation on what is best for the park.
"I think our goal is to recommend what kind of park will do well in the city and serve the residents the way we think it should be, I think that should be our number one focus," Persip said.
"Because in the long run, I think if you have passionate people they'll convince the community and the dollars to come."
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