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Lou Presutti Dreamed

Of Parks Across Nation

In 2010, Lou Presutti II credited his wife, Linda, with helping him achieve his lifelong dream: Cooperstown Dreams Park. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.COM)
In 2010, Lou Presutti II credited his wife, Linda, with helping him achieve his lifelong dream: Cooperstown Dreams Park. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.COM)

Editor’s Note: This profile of Lou Presutti II and report on his vision of founding youth-baseball parks nationwide appeared in The Freeman’s Journal on June 17, 2010. The dream was never realized, but Cooperstown Dreams Park continued to flourish and grow up until the time of Mr. Presutti’s death on Wednesday afternoon.


COOPERSTOWN – Fifteen-hundred young baseball players will be converging on the Cooperstown region every week through Labor Day.

Over the 13 weeks, the Cooperstown Dreams Park players and their families – more than 60,000 people in all – will fill the region’s hotels, pack the restaurants and make cash registers ring along Baseball’s Main Street.

For 14 years, this has been a unique Otsego County experience, but the experience is about to go nationwide.

In an interview, Dreams Park owner Lou Presutti II said his organization has reached agreement with the City of Newberry, Fla., to begin construction of a second, 16-field Nation’s Park this fall.

Soon after that, the organization plans to break ground on a 25-field America’s Park Mooresville, in Mooresville, N.C., near Charlotte.

Over the next seven years, Presutti said, he plans to build, in all, six 16-field complexes and five 25-field complexes “through the nation.”

Lou Presutti II was a hero to many Dreams Park families. Here, he greets a family in 2010. (Jim Kevlin/
Lou Presutti II was a hero to many Dreams Park families. Here, he greets a family in 2010. (Jim Kevlin/

“If the dream is complete, we’ll be serving approximately 75,000 kids a year,” said Presutti, standing on a hill surveying the ballfields, tents and players’ barracks at the original Dreams Park, in Hartwick Seminary.

A couple of days later, from his office on the outskirts of Gainesville, Fla., Newberry City Manager Keith Ashby described an elegant investment plan, whereby enhanced tax revenues from a new Dreams Park will pay off the bonds.

The Alachua County commissioners plan to vote in early July to approve a $7 million bond and $625,000 a year for 20 years in bed-tax revenues ($12.5 million in all) needed to pay it off.

Ashby, former Seneca County manager in Upstate New York, said the business plan anticipates 25,000 more hotel rooms per year will be booked because of what will be called Nation’s Park.

But he called that projection “very conservative,” saying that even if the park generates half that, it will be enough to cover the bond payments.

“We’re hoping we’re going to be the flagship,” drawing players from throughout the Southeast, said Ashby. “The flagship is ultimately your community, but a new flagship.”

In the Town of Mooresville, N.C., outside Charlotte, officials announced an agreement with Presutti on May 13 that includes $100,000 a year in local and county incentive payments to America’s Park LLC for what’s estimated to be a $20 million project.

The complex is expected to generate about $33 million in spending locally, Russ Rogerson, executive director of the Mooresville-South Iredell Economic Development Corp., was quoted as saying in the Charlotte Observer.

During the prime three-month youth baseball season, 80,000 people are expected to visit the area and book 100,000 nights at local hotels, he said.

Presutti’s father, Lou Sr., who passed away in 1992, was a foreman at Dresser Industries in Belmont, Western New York, and began bringing his son – just the two of them – to Cooperstown in 1947, to visit the Hall of Fame and to fish.

His grandmother, Nancy, had arrived from Italy in 1896 and later found herself raising nine children by operating a corner market in Belmont. Lou Jr. remembers Friday evenings, all five of his uncles sitting around the market’s stove, listening to baseball or boxing on the radio. All the brothers played for the Belmont Athletics, the town team, so baseball was part of family life.

Lou Jr. himself coached youth baseball for 34 years, starting in 1961 when he got out of the service, and the Dreams Park idea began to take hold in the early 1980s.

On Madison Avenue, he’d been immersed in demographics and target marketing for Lever Brothers, Procter & Gamble and similar consumer-product companies, and began to gather data in 36 states on the Dreams Park idea.

“All arrows were pointing north,” toward success, towards Cooperstown.

One day in the early ’90s, contemplating retirement, he was sitting with wife Linda in their Salisbury, N.C., home, talking about spending some time in Florida, maybe.

(The couple has three children. Lou III handles day-to-day operations at Hartwick Seminary, but daughters Laurie and Leslie are also active with the company.)

“What about that study you’ve got?” asked Linda, referring to the boxes of data that had piled up in her husband’s office. “What about that study you’ve done for the past 11 years?”

Her husband said, “If we did this and we missed, I’d be packing groceries.”

She said, “Don’t worry. Let’s do it.”

Her dad was a very creative guy, Linda explained, with lots of ideas, but her mother always discouraged him from acting on them. As a wife, Linda always avoided doing the same with hubby Lou.

“He talked a lot about it,” she said. “And I said, why not? Why not?”

It was a Friday, the transition day. As Presutti was talking, family after family was coming up, giddy about the week they’d just had.

“What a wonderful place” was a typical comment.

He’d hug the kids and shake hands with the dads, many of whom he knew from one, two and even three previous trips.

“It’s a place and time that people don’t want to end,” Presutti said, his eyes occasionally tearing up at a particularly poignant comment. “We allow people to forget what’s outside the gate.”

That, he said, inspired the new initiative. “People are calling out from around the country: Do something!” he said emphatically.

So he did.


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