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Cooperstown Mayor Agrees With Hall Of Fame Postponement, But Village Budget Cuts Loom

The Baseball Hall of Fame classic
Ian Pickus
The Baseball Hall of Fame classic

What was expected to be one of the biggest induction ceremonies in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame has been postponed until next year. The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown said Wednesday that this summer’s induction ceremony, which features Yankee great Derek Jeter, is being pushed to July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Village of Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh says she agrees with the decision.

I think that the board of the Baseball Hall of Fame made a very wise decision. And our community really supports them on this. And they really had to take into consideration the, you know, the wishes of the inductees who are wisely also are willing to defer their sort of official commemoration enshrinement till next year. We are a very small community and it's, it would have been very difficult to host a large crowd this year in our current health crisis. So we really appreciate the guidance and the support at the Hall of Fame and making this decision. I know it was a difficult one.

They were expecting maybe 70,000 people to show up. One of the greatest Yankees ever is getting in in this class, Derek Jeter. What will the financial impacts be on your village?

Cooperstown is very much a tourist community, particularly in the summer season. We've been kind of dealt a one-two blow. The neighboring youth sports baseball camp had already announced that it was not going to operate this summer. So that was the beginning of sort of, OK: we need to reevaluate everything. And I think it was almost inevitable that we knew that the induction would not take place. So our merchants are really regrouping. I've spoken to several who specialize in baseball memorabilia and of course they had ordered well in advance of a large inventory, but they were also of the mind that the best way to go forward would be to postpone it and bring in the 2020 inductees along with the 2021 class. It will be a great season next year and we will we'll get through this.

Already, the museum has been closed for several weeks, like everything else here in New York. Are you seeing impacts? I mean, obviously, you said it's a tourist place and people go there year round. Are you seeing impacts already?

Our tourist season really sort of starts up you know, about May and continues into early autumn. So we are hopeful that we will see some return in in perhaps early autumn, but we've regrouped. Villages have to do their budget by May 1, they have to submit their budgets, and we had a very long budget session on Monday video conference. And our board made over half a million and cuts to our budget because we know we're going to be profoundly impacted by sales tax paid parking revenue, a lot of Doubleday Field rentals. So we recognize this is going to be a real belt tightening year but the health and safety of all our visitors was paramount. And we're glad that the whole made this decision.

It's obviously not one of the headline grabbing hotspots but Otsego County did report four deaths so far during the pandemic as of the 29th of April, Wednesday. How are you all dealing with this pandemic and what are the effects that you've seen?

We have had about 60 positive cases in Otsego County. We're a population of about 60,000. So yes, we are very sad to have lost four people. But we are very blessed to have a very high-level medical center. Bassett Healthcare is situated in the village of Cooperstown. They actually employ close to 2,500 people right on their Cooperstown campus even though we're a small community of 1,800. So, we have felt very well supported through this medical crisis by our local healthcare facility.

Is there any relief at all that the parking woes that are so famous during induction weekend are now something you don't have to worry about this year?

I don't think we'll have parking woes per se. I think that you know, the village has three large peripheral lots. We have parking downtown, we have parking in Doubleday lot, which has just undergone a major almost $2 million pedestrian parkway entrance to historic Doubleday Field. So there will be no parking woes if people do come and I think what's important to remember is upstate New York, Cooperstown, is a rural community and in many of us in the village have been taking lots of walks. It's ideal for pedestrians. We’re at the foot of a beautiful lake, Otsego Lake. So I think that hopefully there'll be other reasons for people to come as well. They'll be able to kind of just enjoy the beautiful pristine nature that we have here as well.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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