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County withdraws stimulus funds from Dutchess Stadium renovations

After a public outcry over plans to use federal COVID-19 relief for Dutchess Stadium renovations, Dutchess County (NY) officials pulled back the funds and will instead invest in affordable housing.

The backstory: the county and its tenant, Hudson Valley Renegades (High-A; South Atlantic League), had been planning major renovations to Dutchess Stadium since 2018. No surprise: the ballpark opened in 1994 and has needed various repairs and renovations over the years, as you can see from the stories from our archives below. The MLB makeover of MiLB and COVID-19 changed the terms of these renovations to accommodate the new facilities requirements, with the Renegades moving from Short Season A to High-A.

To pay for these renovations, Dutchess Stadium officials decided to use $12.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, out of a total of $57 million the county received in APRA spending. That decision, made last June, didn’t sit well with local residents who argued using money for relief of those impacted by COVID-19 was much more important than ballpark renovations, pitched as a way to bolster the local tourism industry. They kept up the pressure, generating some bad press along the way, and in the end caused Dutchess County officials to reverse course and instead use the ARPA funds for affordable housing. From the Albany Times-Union:

[Dutchess County Executive Marc] Molinaro said that the county already made the determination to move funds around on April 1. “Because of inflation, the stadium project will be appropriately delayed,” said Molinaro at the meeting. “We are reallocating $9.5 million of our ARP dollars away from our park project and we will dedicate it entirely to housing availability.”…

In recent weeks, Molinaro’s planned allocation of ARP funds for the stadium was criticized by some community members and advocates who wanted to see the funding spent on more pressing county needs.

Dutchess County Comptroller Robin Lois released an audit scrutinizing the county’s plan, finding “investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure surprisingly low at $1.7 million, particularly compared to the stadium spending.”

The change in plans does pose new issues for the county; with bids higher than the renovation budget, Dutchess County and the Renegades will need to map out a new budget and scale of work.

RELATED STORIES: Upgrades continue at Dutchess Stadium; Renegades Set to Debut Dutchess Stadium Upgrades; Renegades Dutchess Stadium Extension in Limbo; Repairs sought for Dutchess Stadium

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