Mayor: Ballpark upgrades will enhance events

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarThe grandstand at Damaschke Field in Oneonta is shown Tuesday.

The city hopes to finish the first phase of construction for a new grandstand at Oneonta's Damaschke Field in Neahwa Park before next summer's baseball season begins, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told The Daily Star Tuesday. 

In 2017, the city applied for a grant from the state to help pay for replacing the declining grandstand, but didn't receive the money, Herzig said. In September 2018, Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, announced a $1 million grant from the state to renovate the grandstand. 

“Historic Damaschke Field has been a key component of Oneonta’s sports landscape for more than a century and planned upgrades will ensure the stadium’s future viability,” Seward said at the time. “This major renovation project will preserve the stadium’s historic character while adding amenities that will enhance the fan experience and increase usage for non-baseball activities.”

The $1 million grant, funded through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, would be used to demolish the park’s grandstand and rehabilitate the space to provide a safe, family-friendly recreational area, officials said at the time. The concrete and steel structure underneath is deteriorating, as is the roof, where the press box is located, officials said at the time. 

Aside from demolishing the grandstand, the project involves moving electric utilities, designing the grandstand's replacement and securing additional funds to cover the full cost of the replacement, as the $1 million grant will not cover the entire cost of demolition and construction, Herzig said. Currently, the city is putting final touches on the design for the new grandstand, he said. 

"We are looking at more of an interactive mixed use area that includes more than just rows of seats," Herzig said.

Herzig said the new design will have areas for picnics and play areas for children. It will allow families a more active experience than just sitting and watching the game, he said. The city is also looking at upgrading the netting system to increase the safety of spectators at games. 

Herzig said he is hopeful that the demolition of the existing grandstand can take place after baseball season ends this fall. 

"We want to make sure that what we built is something that we can all be proud of, in continuing the tradition of Oneonta baseball," he said. 

Damaschke Field opened in 1906 and the grandstand was built as a federal Works Progress Administration project. Previously the turf of minor league teams, including the Oneonta Yankees and the Oneonta Tigers, Damaschke Field is home to the Oneonta Outlaws of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. 

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at 607-441-7221 or skarikehalli@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ShwetaK.