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Pittsfield Mayor Tyer wants to hear the community’s wildest dreams for Wahconah Park

A Wahconah Park sign advertises the May 27th home opener in a field in front of the park itself
Josh Landes
A Wahconah Park sign advertises the May 27th home opener in front of the park.

Last year, the city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts declared that the grandstand of historic Wahconah Park was too structurally unsound to support fans for the summer baseball season. The revelation prompted Mayor Linda Tyer to convene the Wahconah Park Restoration Committee to find a path forward for the stadium that dates to 1919. Next Thursday, the committee – as well as the design team hired to work on the project – is holding a public meeting at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Tyer tells WAMC that the gathering is intended to update Pittsfield on the progress of the redesign project as well as to solicit input from city residents.

TYER: It's such an exciting opportunity for Wahconah Park and for the downtown. And you know, when I think about how this all can be integrated, I imagine- You know, there was a time when we were putting effort and energy and enthusiasm and design into the Colonial Theatre. That was one of the first, that was the cornerstone of the downtown revitalization. And I think that Wahconah Park can be the other anchor at, the other downtown anchor just in terms of being a facility for so many outdoor activities. It doesn't just have to be baseball, and I'm really hoping that the restoration committee and the design team can think beyond baseball. And you know, that's part of the vision I hope that they can find. I hope they're able to use the parcel that we just purchased out in front of Wahconah Park to create more outdoor recreation amenities or activities that are sort of linked to the park. I think the opportunities for live performances and all kinds of other activities ought to be considered beyond just baseball. And it really creates this anchoring between the Colonial Theatre and Wahconah Park and everything else in between for a really cool downtown experience.

WAMC: Do you foresee any other broader infrastructure improvements to accompany the redesign, like looking at the streetscape of Wahconah Street itself?

Well, I don't think you'll see much in infrastructure improvements to the street itself. We'll certainly take a look at that. But that's not sort of at the top of our list. We will, however, be looking closely at how to make improvements to the parking lot. As you know, when it rains, half of the parking lot floods or a quarter of the parking lot floods. And I know that that is a priority for myself, the restoration committee. So that's an infrastructure improvement that we might need to include as part of the overall restoration.

Remind us about the commission itself- Take us through who you appointed to this undertaking.

What I wanted to do was to create a really diverse group of people, like I've tried to do with all of our boards and commissions. So, it includes people who are experienced, like Earl Persip, who is a member of the city council, deep connections within the community. But it also includes people who have actually played baseball, like Bryan House, and a couple of members from the Parks Commission are serving on the committee. And then just people who have community experience, who have an interest in the future of Wahconah Park, so sort of at-large members, and really tried to create diversity. We also have a person on the committee who has a career or profession in health and wellness, and I thought that was going to be an important voice to have, because how do we use Wahconah Park to increase the outdoor health and wellness activities for the people of our city? So, it's a pretty diverse group.

It's early days yet, but as numbers start to come together for this, what kind of investment might this look like for the city as this redesign comes together?

I don't even have a range of investment at this point. I mean, as you know, we were so pleased that our proposal that we submitted to Congressman [Richard] Neal for federal funding was selected among the many proposals that he receives, and he was able to provide us with $3 million of funding from the federal budget to help us in these early stages. And truthfully, I'm not sure I want to create any kind of- You know, part of me wants to see what is everyone's wildest dreams and let's see how much that costs and then work backwards.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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