By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – With Damaschke Field’s box seats condemned and its supports rusting, Common Council voted tonight to apply for a grant to demolish the 80-year-old city landmark.
“It’s a touchy thing, but the building is old and it needs to come down,” said Gary Laing, Oneonta Outlaws owner. “We’ve been talking about it for a few years now, but it’s reached a critical stage.”
“It’s beyond repair,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “It needs to be completely replaced.”
The grandstand was built in 1939 and seats 500. Earlier this season, the entire set of top boxes was condemned by the city. “That’s when it really came to the forefront,” said Laing. “It’s decrepit.”
The demolition and a temporary backstop – including a press box and lighting – would cost $445,000. Common Council will file an application for $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding through the Regional Economic Development Council. If approved during the REDC funding awards in December, the city would contribute $145,000 to the project.
The anticipated start date for the demolition would be Spring 2018. “Games will still be played,” said Laing. “The city has no intention of disrupting the season, and we still have seating for 4,000 in the bleachers.”
And although Herzig intends to seek funds for the rebuilding of the grandstand, Laing isn’t sure that’s necessary. “The concept of the grandstand has changed,” he said. “People want more entertainment. We need box seats, of course, but do we really want to spend a million and a half on a grandstand? Or would we do better with picnic tables or someplace for the kids to play?”
The motion was approved unanimously. Council Members Paul van der Sommen, First Ward and Joe Ficano, Eighth Ward, were absent.
“It’s had a good life, and it’s seen a lot of baseball.” said Herzig.