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Wahconah Park renovations now entering value-engineering phase

After receiving a $30.2 million estimate for Wahconah Park renovations, Pittsfield officials are predictably combing through the line items and figuring out a way to lower that cost.

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’s hosted multiple levels of baseball, ranging from Class AA Eastern League games to short-season A, independent and summer-collegiate play; it’s currently the home of the Pittsfield Suns (Futures League). 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.

However, there was a little sticker shock when a price tag of $30.2 million was affixed to the plan. Which is leading the Wahconah Park Restoration Committee, in its final meeting of 2023, to take a closer look at the renovation work and determine if there are ways to lower that price by $3 million-$5 million. From the Berkshire Eagle:

Sal Canciello, the principal of Brookline-based S3 Design, briefed committee members about areas where there could be some potential cuts.

“We have some diagrams that are just really at 30,000 feet, looking at what other things we can start to look at and get your feedback on,” Canciello said. “How far do we cut? Where do we start to cut program? Where do we start to cut other things? We didn’t yet cut any interior program other than aligning the restroom count with the seating capacity, not with any extra capacity for standing room.”…

“A lot of the original design I really liked,” committee member Joseph Benjamin said after the meeting. “I’m hopeful that the money can be raised so we don’t have to make those decisions. If we do, it’s still going to be a heck of an improvement.”

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.

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