Four county executives in New York, including two from the Hudson Valley, are calling on the state to expand capacity at smaller baseball stadiums. They say current restrictions on the kinds of baseball parks in their counties would amount to a summer strikeout.
A year ago, baseball was one of many recreational casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with more known about the virus and its spread, county leaders say their teams can take to the field safely, with rules in place for spectators. Dutchess County houses Dutchess Stadium, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades, this year, a New York Yankees affiliate. Avid Mets fan and Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says a 20 percent capacity limit for parks like Dutchess Stadium makes no sense.
“We know that in order to get these teams on the field and in order to make sure these businesses can survive, and they are major businesses, in order for them to survive, 50 percent capacity really is necessary,” Molinaro says. “And so the current guidance that’s been offered just isn’t enough to make these successful. And, in our case, a 5,000-person stadium, and we’re talking 2,500 people with established safety plans.”
Suffolk County is home of the Long Island Ducks and Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone. He hosted a virtual press conference Tuesday saying current state guidance that allows for 20 percent capacity and requires mandatory testing at large scale outdoor venues such as Citi Field or Yankee Stadium will not work for smaller minor league and independent stadiums like Ducks Stadium.
“We are asking the state to amend that guidance, pull out these smaller stadiums, separate them from these larger stadiums because they are different, they are separate, or they should be separate because the circumstances are really completely different,” Bellone says.
Completely different, he says, than from Yankee Stadium or the Mets’ Citi Field.
“And, the fact is, at 50 percent capacity with people wearing face coverings, face masks and maintaining distance between groups in an outdoor stadium, we believe that’s about as safe an environment as you can be in,” says Bellone.
Democratic Broome County Executive Jason Garnar wants families to be able to watch the Mets affiliate Binghamton Rumble Ponies go to bat.
“And I’ll tell you something, for a Memorial Day, for a Fourth of July weekend, I’d rather have a couple- thousand people out watching a Rumble Ponies game than a couple-thousand people inside their houses watching TV. That’s where the virus spreads,” Garnar says.
And he takes the call for raising capacity one step further.
“Let’s have local control on these stadiums. I mean, I’ve been going to that stadium since it was built in 1992. Our local health department, we go to that stadium, we’re very aware, we watch games there and we know a layout,” says Garnar. “We understand how it works. We understand how it flows. I think we are the best able to judge how many people can safely go to a game”
Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day says the letter he and the other county executives sent to the state makes a point that local problems require local solutions.
“And that really has been the vexing part of trying to maneuver through this entire pandemic because that has not been the way things have been done,” says Day. “And we’re seeing some loosening up now, and I hope that continues.”
The Boulders play at Palisades Credit Union Park, formerly Provident Bank Park, in Pomona.
“There is no reason why you cannot have a maximum of 3,000 people in that stadium. It is, there’s so much room there. And, again, it fits, it fits what we have here, and that’s what it really comes down to,” Day says. “At 20 percent, frankly, it’s not going to work, and we cannot have another year without baseball.”
Meantime, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that, beginning April 2, large-scale college sports venues can host spectators at 10 percent indoor or 20 percent outdoor capacity. Fans must present proof of either a negative COVID test or vaccination.