Wahconah Park Committee Recommends $30M Design
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Wahconah Park Restoration Committee has endorsed a $30 million overhaul of the historic ballpark that is three times the original expectation.
On Thursday, the panel unanimously voted to recommend an elevated option that raises all program spaces above the floodplain and has a fully accessible lower and upper concourse.
The 40,000 square foot design is valued at $30.2 million. One year ago when the process began, the overhaul was expected to cost $10 to $15 million.
"The pricing is high," principal architect Salvatore Canciello said before revealing the cost estimates. "A little higher than we anticipated."
Now comes the question of whether Mayor Linda Tyer and the City Council will support the proposal. Based on a survey conducted this month, there is a high level of interest in the project and support voiced for the elevated option, which committee members OK'd with little debate.
The renovation option, which retains the existing roof and rebuilds much of the existing program in a similar location, would cost about $25 million for 25,000 square feet. It was pointed out that the chosen option provides almost twice the square footage for $5 million more.
Canciello explained that there were significant costs associated with remediating lead paint in the renovated option, which contributed to the price tag but aimed to keep some historical elements.
There is a potential for a cost savings of about $1 million if a waiver can be obtained to reduce the required number of bathrooms by 50 percent. All designs also have to go through the state historical commission.
The design process has seen some delays this summer. Chair Earl Persip III advised the panel to make a recommendation to get the ball rolling. A report will be send to the administration including a feasibility study prepared by S3 Design that provides an explanation of the need and design.
"I think we're where we need to be," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.
There has not been a comprehensive conversation with the administration and city finance director about possible funding pathways but McGrath pointed out that there are very grants that can be investigated as well as new market tax dollars.
There is $3 million earmarked for the project as part of a $1.7 billion federal omnibus spending bill that passed late last year.
A survey that launched on Sept. 12 has since garnered more than 500 responses. It includes eight multiple choice questions and one open-ended question, which received nearly 190 long-form responses.
"We have never has such great response," McGrath said.
Nearly 83 percent of respondents were Pittsfield residents and the majority — around 65 percent — were "sometimes" visitors of Wahconah Park. Another 81 percent support a significant investment of city funds for the effort and 77 percent would continue to support it if the flooding issues in the parking lot were improved but not eliminated.
Based on the survey, the community members don't mind the sun delay and would like see the facility used for more than baseball and throughout the year.
"Today there were five additional surveys in the past 24 hours," McGrath added. "So we continue to see interest in this survey. I think it's pretty revealing for the committee."
Committee members suggested closing the survey on Oct. 12 so that it is open for a full month. It can be accessed here.
Suggestions in the open ended questions included luxury box seats, a souvenir shop, a museum of baseball history, shaded accessible areas, and addressing the sun delay. A couple of displayed respondents favored the elevated design and one said they could like the idea but cannot support the use of city funds when residents are struggling to pay their taxes.
"I fully support the decision to proceed with this project," one person wrote. "I believe the lower attendance at the Suns games is attributed to the park's current conditions, and I'm concerned about the potential loss of a fantastic, affordable, event that caters to people of all economic backgrounds within our city."
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