With tourism dealt another pandemic-related blow last week, Otsego County’s leaders are increasingly turning to outdoor adventures to lure visitors.
“We’re actually in the process right now of trying to launch a massive campaign to tout our outdoor adventure,” said Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corporation, which promotes tourism in Otsego and Schoharie counties.
Harrington said the tourism news has been mostly dismal in the week since Cooperstown Dreams Park announced it would require all teams playing at the park’s summer tournaments to be vaccinated for the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty of getting vaccinations for children and a hard refund deadline has left dozens of teams in a catch-22, leading to hundreds of reported cancellations.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s winter announcement that it was moving its postponed 2020 Induction Weekend to a virtual event, had already crushed pre-pandemic hopes for a record sized crowd for Derek Jeter’s induction.
However, the reopening of the baseball parks, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and Cooperstown All-Star Village in West Oneonta, was a big pillar of the county’s hopes for a renewed summer of tourism. All-Star Village has not announced similar vaccination requirements for its teams, but the Dreams Park changes make its June opening unlikely, Harrington said.
“Now that the bottom fell out with Dreams Park, our accommodations are dealing with a flood of cancellations,” she said. “So, we really need those outdoor visitors more than ever.”
Last week, parents of athletes looking to attend the Cooperstown Dreams Park experience this summer, were notified that in order to participate, they will be requiring proof of vaccination for anyone 12 years old and up. Anyone under 12 years old, simply has to provide proof of negative test (however, they did not give a timeframe for how recent that test needed to be).
As you can imagine, there is MASSIVE backlash from parents for this decision, and timing of notification, as well as the numerous things grossly wrong with these requirements. First, and foremost, there is not even a vaccine available or approved for use in anyone under the age of 16. At this point, there is only ONE vaccine available for 16- to 18-year-olds, and ZERO available for anyone younger than that. So, they are putting a requirement for play, that is completely unattainable. That’s like saying the grass needs to turn purple in order for anyone to be able to attend. Those that were able to get through to CDP yesterday, and speak to someone about this egregious plan, state that CDP told them that they will be taking the summer on a week by week basis, and if the vaccine isn’t available for an upcoming week, then they will simply cancel that week and move onto the next one.
Leaving people out all of their entry money, travel expenses, lodging expenses etc, and they claim that they are FIRM on this policy.
Those are the two concepts people in government and the tourist industry are using in discussing the news that the two youth-baseball camps, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and All Star Village in West Oneonta, are seeking permission to open someway, somehow, in the 2021 season.
“If they can conform to the state’s requirements and do it safely, they should be allowed to open,” said Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. Others interviewed echoed her sentiment.
Dreams Park is planning to extend its season from May to September, with fewer players, who would stay on-campus, as in the past. (Early, it was incorrectly reported that the players would stay off-campus.)
All must present negative COVID tests on arrival. Dreams Park’s local lawyer, Gar Gozigian, is looking for state Health Department guidance and permission to proceed.
All Star Village issued a more general statement, saying it would implement all health and safety measures, and concluding, “As things change we are confident restrictions will expire and we will update.”
COOPERSTOWN – County Emergency Task Force chairman Allen Ruffles today said he has been assured by Marty Patton, owner of Cooperstown All-Star Village in West Oneonta, that there are no plans to cancel the summer season, at least for now.
All-Star Village – as well at Coopertown Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary, which Friday announced it is cancelling it 2020 season – together fuel the county’s youth-baseball camp sector, which together inject millions of dollars annually into the local economy.
Baseball star Bryce Harper, now 26, who played at Cooperstown Dreams Park in 2003-05, has just signed a 13-year, $330-million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, the largest contract in MLB and pro-sports history.
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.
By JIM KEVLIN
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.
COOPERSTOWN – Private calling hours for Cooperstown Dreams Park founder Lou Presutti, 75, who passed away Wednesday afternoon, July 6, at the Hartwick Seminary facility, are underway at this hour at the Tillapaugh Funeral Home.
Word is that Mr. Presutti passed away while taking a nap.
While private, a substantial crowd had appeared for the viewing, including a substantial part of the Dream Park staff. The phones were not being answered at the park at this hour; this is also the shift day, when this week’s Dreams Park players have departed, and next week’s have not yet arrived.
COOPERSTOWN – Word is circulating that Lou Presutti II, 75, who founded Cooperstown Dreams Park 20 years ago and changed the economy of northern Otsego County, has passed away.
Matt Hazzard, executive director of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, posted this tribute on Facebook:
“Hard to hear of the death of Cooperstown Dreams Park owner Lou Presutti. Umpired there for a couple years and he treated me very well. A strong supporter of the Cooperstown Chamber, his vision has left a lasting impression on Cooperstown and our region. RIP #wearecooperstown”
On Twitter, and Bryce Harper, a Dreams Park graduate who is now playing for the Washington Nationals, has posed a tribute on Instagram.