Letter: Wahconah Park: Invest in Future, Celebrate Past.

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To the Editor:

I've had many people ask for my opinion regarding the situation. Phone has been non-stop notifications, tags, and texts since the announcement. I have worked at Wahconah Park since I became an adult. I have been to nearly every game at the ballpark except for 3: senior prom, my wedding (still ended up there), and my son's godparents' wedding. I am the longest-tenured broadcaster in FCBL history and Wahconah Park's history. I'd wager I have seen the ballpark more than any other person since 2011. I know the ballpark. I also know it's flaws.

Considering where the press box is located, there is no person who has taken more risk than me. I called that press box my second home for over a decade. I often joke that the first time you climb up, you get SLS, or Shaky Leg Syndrome, due to anyone's fear of heights to spike at the attempt to climb the ladder up itself. I am very afraid of heights, but can run up that ladder and walk way in record time. I can also tell you that I felt that the walkway was very wobbly and unsafe at times.

The past two years I have broadcasted under a pop-up tent in order to call games. Given weather, the hot sun beaming on the equipment that I myself provide, and rain that was, at times, impossible to be clear from, I feel like I can vouch that the ballpark is currently in no shape to hosting games; from my experience, the players experience with a grass field that needs to be turfed, and the diluted fan experience considering the restrictions placed on the Suns due to the situation.

Let me be clear: I wholeheartedly agree with the Suns' decision to pause their season until a reasonable accommodation can be filled, i.e. a new ballpark. Move locations? There is nowhere in Berkshire County that would generate a profit, with the need of concessions merch to drive the team towards the black. Renovating? It's like a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. The grandstands have lived a long life, but no amount of renovating would either be worth it nor be sustainable for as long. Same with turfing the field, for longevity, cost, and accessibility for other opportunities. Zero added risk to player injuries, as shown in the study done in one of the committee meetings.

If we, as a city, love to talk about our history so much, then instead of being known as "Pittsfield: The Land of Missed Opportunity," it can be known for a city the invests in itself, a place the celebrates it's history, not dwells in it. This isn't the '80s anymore, GE isn't here, a lot of things aren't here anymore. So let's invest in our future while celebrating our past.

Yes, I get the comparison of the decision back around the late '90s to early '00s. I also understand the tax implications that would most likely occur. If we don't move forward with this, then we also can't complain there's nothing to do around here.

Wahconah Park can be used for more than just baseball. I played football on that field throughout my youth. Who remembers the Wing Fling? My stomach yearns for some wings from Friend's Grille (when they were open), Patrick's, and Old Forge. Boxing, wrestling, concerts, all relatively inexpensive considering the alternatives an hour away East or West.

As for this year, "why are the Suns involved in stuff at the park if they are abandoning Pittsfield?" First off, let's not be so closed-minded and use some critical thinking. The Suns aren't abandoning Pittsfield, they simply cannot operate as if everything is normal with beyond normal circumstances. The next season the Suns play at Wahconah Park, they will have the most seasons played by a single franchise in the city's history. That seems like they're invested in staying. The team is going out of their way to still attempt activities this summer, as they still want to have community engagement in Pittsfield. That seems like they're invested in staying. They are still trying to provide fireworks on the 4th of July this year, tens of thousands of dollars out of their own pocket, with the one incentive being to keep the people of Pittsfield happy. That seems like they're invested in staying. To put it short and sweet: the Suns aren't leaving on their own accord anytime soon.

The mayor is doing what they can. The Suns are doing what they can. The restoration committee are doing what they can. This is a big decision for Pittsfield, and rightfully so. Our Rome is Wahconah Park. And just the same: it won't be built in a day. I'm not talking as a mouthpiece for the team; I'm talking as a citizen of Pittsfield that wants what's best for Pittsfield.

We all know that we are having issues with funding it, whether a tax implication, crowd funding, grants, or, maybe unlikely, the next Powerball/Mega Millions winner. We all know it's hard and going to be hard to get this done, but what is triumph without struggle? Struggle for me has been under a tent in the elements the past few years trying to tell a story on air for hundreds of hours.

Selfishly, I want the triumph to be my son growing up to want to go to the ballpark and have his dad tell him a story, whether on air or in person. Some of my wife's favorite memories are with her dad at Wahconah Park. I want my son to see a clash of two titan teams going into battle, where every crack of the bat breeds excitement. Every cheer to be made with passion, every thirst for thrill be quenched by either a phenomenal play and/or a cold soda. A place where everyone comes out with an experience to share with friends, family, and classmates. I want my son to have a childhood better than mine.

If you build it, they will come.

Billy Madewell
Pittsfield, Mass.



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Toy Library Installed at Onota Lake

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Feel free to use or leave a toy at Onota Lake's newest infrastructure meant to foster community and benefit kids.

Burbank Park now has a toy library thanks to Wahconah Regional High School senior Alexandra Bills. Located along the wall at the beach area, the green and blue structure features two shelves with sand toys that can be used to enhance children's visits.

The Parks Commission supported Bills' proposal in February as part of her National Honors Society individual service project and it was installed this month. Measuring about 4 feet wide and 5.8 feet tall, it was built by the student and her father with donated materials from a local lumber company.

Friends and family members provided toys to fill the library such as pails, shovels, Frisbees, and trucks.

"I wanted to create a toy library like the other examples in Berkshire County from the sled library to the book libraries," she told the commission in February.

"But I wanted to make it toys for Onota Lake because a lot of kids forget their toys or some kids can't afford toys."

Bills lives nearby and will check on the library weekly — if not daily — to ensure the operation is running smoothly.  A sign reading "Borrow-Play-Return" asks community members to clean up after themselves after using the toys.

It was built to accommodate children's heights and will be stored during the winter season.

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