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Doubleday renovations on track for June finish

Doubleday Field might be blocks away from the Baseball Hall of Fame but the two stand side-by-side as Cooperstown’s marquis attractions.

The iconic field has seen its better days, and Village Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh continues to move forward with renovations she says will return the site to all its former glory.

“Doubleday Field will have a lot more plusses for Village residents, tourists, and teams that rent the field,” she said in a discussion with The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “This is a funding stream for Cooperstown. That’s only one reason to keep it up.”

A 2017 planning document listed a variety of problems demanding attention: a need for on-site locker facilities, concession stands, and accessible, modern bathrooms; fix a drainage system so heavily blocked it causes otherwise avoidable rain-outs; address Willow Brook running directly beneath the first-base bleachers; fix structurally-unsound third-base bleachers; create a safer pedestrian approach to the Field through an active and busy parking lot; build seating compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Despite pandemic delays, crews completed the first phases of renovation in 2020 — with a renovated parking lot featuring improved pedestrian access, the demolition of the third-base bleachers, renovation of the historic 1939 grandstand, and, among other projects, covering Willow Brook to protect it from litter tossed from the first-base bleachers. Still on the agenda: finishing the third-base building that will house locker rooms.

The venue has remained open for rental throughout the major renovation project, except for the summer of 2020 when COVID restrictions shut down team sports activities.

Mayor Tillapaugh credited her predecessor, former mayor Jeff Katz, for spearheading the original Doubleday Field renovations.

With an original price tag of $5.8 million, construction began in 2019 but hit some snags – including “soil degradation” issues near the third-base line adding more than $600,000 to the project.

“The ground couldn’t hold the weight,” Mayor Tillapaugh said, calling it an unforeseen expense.

Construction crews temporarily stopped work on the third-base building, bowing not only to winter weather but to ubiquitous supply chain problems slowing the arrival of needed materials. Department of Public Works Superintendent Mitch Hotaling said the timing gives his crew time to prepare for the spring with an eye toward a June 2022 completion.

“We’ve been waiting all winter long to get our supplies,” he said. “When we’re done, I think Doubleday Field is going to look awesome. I’d bet it’s going to look even better than it did before.”

“We’re a community that’s unique in our infrastructure in that we need to keep our tourism numbers high each year,” Mayor Tillapaugh said, noting the Village took a particularly hard hit during the peak of the COVID pandemic. “In June 2021, we had a significant reduction in sales tax revenue.”

The Village’s single-season pandemic-related losses totaled more than $900,000, including a 25 percent drop in funds from paid parking.

The Mayor said the Doubleday Field project will help the Village realize the full potential of the historic stadium.

“This is an important project not just for Village residents but for our tourists and visitors,” she said. “It’s a Mecca for baseball fans from around the country. We’re excited for this to be all in place.”


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