Begun inauspiciously in March 2014 with the felling of 37 trees on Main Street, a remarkable series of successes has followed in the reinvention of downtown Cooperstown for 21st century tourism.
The environmentally sensitive rain gardens, new sidewalks, streetlights, replacement of 19th century water mains and sewerage – even a new flag pole, embroiled in controversy as it now is – have followed in quick succession.
But it’s not over, as observed in the past few days, as the Upstate Companies, which is growing
into a Mount Upton-based behemoth, began working on the latest projects:
• One, the reinvention of pocket Pioneer Park, at Main and Pioneer, with a low stage, bike racks and water fountain, more benches and new plantings. The more open center will provide more elbow room around Santa’s Cottage, often packed as it is from Thanksgiving Weekend until the Big Day.
• Two, a new traffic signal setup at Pioneer and Chestnut. The Upstate crews are replacing curbs and sidewalks (with brick pavers) from Pine Boulevard to the intersection. The traffic light will be replaced with a single signal, just as it is, but adjustable to easy entry and exit from the nearby fire station.
Chestnut Street will be narrowed, for less-stressful pedestrian crossings, and a small plaza created in front of Mel’s. Plus, Walk/Don’t Walk signals will further ease pedestrians’ minds as they navigate more clearly delineated crosswalks, courtesy with long-lasting stripes from Andela Glass, the Richfield Springs recycling concern.
(That last piece depends on the weather, according to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch: Blacktop requires a stretch of 50-plus degree weather to cure.)
While this isn’t the beginning, it isn’t the end, either.
At Doubleday Field, water and sewer lines will be laid from the Main Street entrance to the left side of the grandstand to provide service to the restrooms, locker rooms and pavilion that will be part of next year’s third-baseline reconstruction.
Depending on how soon winter arrives, work may begin on the Main Street entrance, including the fancy arch pictured with this editorial.
Next summer, the construction should be going strong along Doubleday Field’s third-base line. The mayor isn’t sure how much will be done by next year’s 100th anniversary of the baseball landmark, but there should be enough to be impressive during ceremonies planned by the Friends of Doubleday.
That’s a lot in five years, but it’s not over – probably never over, Mayor Tillapaugh
Fowler Way, which leads to Doubleday from Chestnut Street, next to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, is much used, but narrow, bumpy and lacking sidewalks, all of which could and should be addressed.
She is particularly interested in upgrading Hoffman Lane, across from the Hall of Fame, to lead more of the quarter-million fans that visit the Hall each year to Lakefront Park and James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. Locals are often surprised to learn that many visitors are unaware the lake is even there.
Then, attention could turn to Railroad Avenue, which is becoming a center of local life and commerce, with Mike Manno’s 21 Railroad office building, and Attorney Michelle Kennedy’s office building next door, Cooperstown Distillery, the Railroad Inn, the renovated Spurbeck’s, Butch Welch’s recently redone parking lot,
and the Susquehanna & Western Railroad headquarters.
With the empty “Where It All Began” warehouse and other space for apartments, Railroad Avenue is a promising next center of population growth.
Will it ever end? Listening to the mayor, you have to conclude: Never, and it shouldn’t.
COOPERSTOWN – Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch will update the public on several village projects due to begin right after Labor Day at an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, in Village Hall’s second-floor ballroom, which is accessible by elevator from the Fair Street entrance.
Topics to be covered include the waste-water treatment plant improvement project, Pioneer Park upgrades, the continuation of the Downtown Pedestrian Improvement Project (TEP), and design and construction plans for Doubleday Field. Engineers and contractors will be on hand to answer questions.
COOPERSTOWN – If you’ve ever dreamed of setting foot on historic Doubleday Field, Jeff Katz and the Friends of Doubleday can make that happen.
“People always want to get on the field,” he said. “There’s lots of signage telling people the story of Doubleday, but it doesn’t get them out there.”
The Friends of Doubleday – Katz is president – have begun offering tours 8-9 a.m. every Wednesday and Thursday to take fans through the grandstand, into the dugout and onto the historic field, where they can take pictures or take a run around the bases.
Jeff Idelson, Baseball Hall of Fame president, left, and Hall board Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, right, stand with members of 30 Major League Baseball teams who made up the roster for the 2019 Hall Of Fame Classic game at Doubleday Field this afternoon in Cooperstown. Despite some sprinkles, professional ballplayers gave their fans a great game as well as T-shirt give-aways, children’s competitions, as well as signing autographs and memorabilia. At right, Maria Noto, Cooperstown, backed by the Cooperstown Sign Language club, sings the National Anthem at the beginning of the afternoon’s game. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
From the starting line in front of Doubleday Field a few minutes ago, Cooperstown’s Frankie Panzarella, top photo, center, and his pal Justin Wolfe, left, led the 8th annual BASE Race 5K “Fun Run” now underway through the streets of the village, the first activity in a day of Hall of Fame offerings. At 10 a.m., ribbon-cutting on the new exhibit on baseball cards, “Shoebox Treasures,” will happen at 25 Main. The 11th annual Hall of Fame Classic, featuring six Hall of Famers and many MLB standouts, begins at 1:05 p.m. at Doubleday; tickets are still on sale at the Hall. Between Frankie and Justin is Bradley Weldon of Cooperstown, who is running with Ashlyn Wolfe, an assistant Otsego County Dairy Princess. Inset, the Hall’s Shirley Tyler, who is emceeing, chats with the two celebrity starters, Grant Balfour, who played with four teams, from the Twins to the A’s, and, with back to camera, Ryan Rowland-Smith, who played with the Mariners and Diamondbacks. Both are rare Australian players who made it into the Majors. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
LEGENDS GAME – 1:05 p.m. The 11th annual Hall of Fame Classic 7-inning game w/6 HOF legends & players from all-30 MLB teams will play 7-inning game. Tickets $11-12.50. Pregame Home Run Derby at noon. Doubleday Field. Info, 607-207-9519, www.BaseballHall.org
COOPERSTOWN – After weeks of debating T-Mobile’s proposed 25-foot tower atop the Key Bank building, tonight Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch was blunt.
With the village planning $5.8 million in upgrades to Doubleday Field, “a significant historical landmark” behind the bank building, “there is no consensus or eye to approving the project at this location,” she declared at the end of a special meeting on the issue.
PARADE – 6 p.m. Following awards presentation, Hall of Famers ride trucks down Main Street to special reception at Baseball Hall of Fame. Staging on Doubleday Field, Cooperstown. 607-547-7200 or visit baseballhall.org
Hail Doubleday! Historic Ballfield To Be
Reinvented For 21st Century Fans’ Needs
Too much discussion about Doubleday Field in recent years has centered on how it
was once considered the Birthplace of Baseball, and now isn’t.
That’s not a productive conversation.
Let’s stipulate that boys played baseball in Phinney’s Field in the mid-1800s, as boys did across the country. Let’s stipulate that Abner Doubleday was at West Point in 1839, when he purportedly invented baseball here. Let’s stipulate that, yes, something with a bat and ball was played as far away as Poland as long ago as the Middle Ages.
No matter. Doubleday Field has played a central role in Cooperstown becoming the locus of the National Game, which in turn led to the founding of the National Baseball Hall of Fame here instead of Hoboken, which in turn fueled Otsego County tourism, which in turn led to the youth baseball camps that now underpin our cornerstone local industry.
In announcing a $1 million grant the other day toward $5.8 million in renovations, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, caught the personal dimension of that living history. He remembered seeing Mickey Mantle hit a single there, (although a pinch-runner took it from there.) One of the Wounded Warriors told him, with awe, the other year: “Babe Ruth sat in the dugout where I’m sitting now.”
In short, Doubleday Field IS historic.
So the renewed interest in renovating Doubleday Field is as welcome as it is overdue.
In addition to Seward’s Million, another $3 million is expected any day from the Empire State Development Corp., (which this week announced the opening of The Wick, a boutique hotel in
Hudson, a $10 million project – the state DOES do this sort of thing, as it should.)
The resulting Doubleday Field – with a green swath leading from Main Street to the main entrance, a historic exhibit beneath the grandstand, and a multi-purpose building (offices, restrooms, a pressroom and space for public gatherings) – will cement this national icon further in community life.
Cooperstown’s new mayor, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, immediately began promoting the project on taking office April 1, winning the endorsement of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Commission – necessary to receive the grant – just days after taking the oath.
She appointed her predecessor, Jeff Katz, as president of the Friends of Doubleday, which will assure continuity as things move forward.
Tillapaugh has a sensible priority list: As soon as the money is in hand, no matter how much, work will begin on the most important things first. No waiting.
This should assure that something – fingers crossed that is will be largely complete – will be in place in time to celebrate Doubleday Field’s centennial properly, sometime next year or in 2020.
Hail Doubleday!, (wherever or whenever baseball emerged from the primeval maw.)