The fate of proposed $30.2-million historic Wahconah Park renovations at the home of the Pittsfield Suns (summer collegiate; Futures League), will likely hinge on the results of a mayoral election slated for next week.
Wahconah Park is one of the most historic ballparks in the United States. Baseball has been played at the site since 1892. Opening in 1919, 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.
And it certainly needs some TLC. Deteriorating conditions caused the city to shut down the grandstand for the 2022 Suns season, and the conditions impacted Suns attendance in 2023 as well. The response by the city was to appoint a restoration committee and project manager to oversee Wahconah Park renovation.
The solution, from Brookline-based S3 Design, is a new grandstand to replace the old, deteriorating grandstand in one of two configurations. There’s one big difference between the configurations: an “elevated” design would sit above the ground to avoid flooding, while a less expensive design calls for a ground-level grandstand.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer isn’t on the ballot in the Nov. 7mayoral elections, but the two candidates running for mayor — Peter Marchetti and John Krol — have differing opinions on how to manage the inevitable renovations. The project already has $3 million in federal funding for renovations. Where the rest comes from is the issue. Judging by this article in the Berkshire Eagle, neither candidate is particularly enthusiastic about spending any money on renovations, though they both admit that the renovations will yield a multiuse facility that will be used for more than just the Suns. Of course, at this time it’s hard to be specific when there’s no specific funding plan on the table.
The $30.2 million estimate for Wahconah Park renovations also calls for an upgraded parking lot and other water-related mitigation. It does not include synthetic turf, which will be discussed later.