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Committee moves forward with Wahconah Park project manager

Wahconah Park

The Wahconah Park Restoration Committee is moving toward either restoring or rebuilding historic Wahconah Park, home of the Pittsfield Suns (summer collegiate; Futures League), after the decision to hire a project manager.

Deteriorating conditions caused the city to shut down the grandstand for the 2022 Suns season, with the subsequent appointment of a Wahconah Park Restoration Committee. That committee will map the course of action, determining the scope of repairs–including a “raze and replace” approach–and then potentially hiring an architect and contractor to implement the repairs. The project is expected to address changes both on the player side (clubhouses) and the fan side (restrooms, concessions, etc.).

One big issue has apparently been addressed: the lack of historic restrictions on the project:

The committee also learned Thursday night that should it ultimately decide on what McGrath calls a “raze and replace” plan for the Wahconah Park grandstand, the Massachusetts Historic Commission might not stand in Pittsfield’s way.

When the members of the Wahconah Park Restoration Committee toured the facility last month, questions were brought up regarding Wahconah Park and its 2005 designation on the National Register of Historic Places. The concern was whether the historic designation might otherwise prevent the city from potentially tearing down the current grandstand and replacing it with something new.

At the time, McGrath said he would look into the issue. Thursday, he told the committee he heard back from Paul Holtz from the Historic Commission, and described the response as reassuring. Holtz acknowledged that Wahconah Park is not currently under what is called a preservation restriction, which would trigger a plan review.

Baseball has been played at the site since 1892. Opening in 1919, the wooden Wahconah Park grandstand was closed for Suns play this summer because of deteriorating conditions. It’s a unique venue with the grandstand facing west, leading to plenty of 20-minute sun breaks during games over the decades because of batters directly facing the sun. (That issue was lessened in recent years with the installation of a screen.) It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, which doesn’t really impact any potential renovations or a razing.

Photo courtesy Pittsfield Suns.

RELATED STORIES: Wahconah Park in need of TLC; Pittsfield to map restoration plan