The dream of Minor League Baseball in a refurbished Delano Hitch Stadium by the year 2024 may be a little closer to reality.
The Newburgh City Council last week agreed it would need to amend the city budget and begin their Master Recreation Plan planning process immediately if that timeline is met.
Christie Foster, Chief of Staff for Senator James Skoufis [D-39] briefed the council at last week’s work session on the progress towards that goal. Last May, she said, the senator reached out to Minor League owners from the Atlantic League and brought some of them to tour the facilities in Newburgh.
“The league isn’t going to wait indefinitely,” Foster said.
The city council, in January , approved a $50,000 feasibility study on the possibility of bringing Minor League baseball back to Newburgh after a 25-year absence. It was home to the Independent Newburgh Night Hawks and later the short-lived Newburgh Black Diamonds in the late 1990s. The only minor league baseball organization that currently operates in the surrounding area is the Hudson Valley Renegades, a New York Yankees affiliate based in Wappingers Falls.
Foster said that rather than conduct a feasibility study, the council would need to amend the budget and appropriate $125 - 150,000 to fund the recreation facilitates master plan as soon as possible.
City Manager Todd Venning said he would have to look to see if the city budget could withstand another $150,000 amendment in this fiscal year, adding that the city might need to “reprioritize:” or “retriage” certain projects.
“We share the sentiment of supporting bringing in a minor league baseball team here in Newburgh,” said Councilwoman Giselle Martinez. “I think it’s important for the revitalization of Newburgh.”
Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde shared a broader vision for the park - one that went beyond baseball.
“We should offer not just baseball. A lot of people use the soccer fields,” Monteverde said. “I wouldn’t mind seeing tennis being brought back as well.”
At one time the park included tennis courts and a speed skating oval and a warming shelter for ice skaters.
Councilman Omari Shakur said the park needs to be refurbished to benefit Newburgh’s kids.
“We need that whole park and make it applicable for the children of the city,” Shakur said. “We’re trying to rush this baseball stadium. I’m not feeling that right now.”
Mayor Torrance Harvey said the city could do both - create a viable minor league facility and also have a kid-friendly park.
“The city government can walk and chew gum at the same time,” the mayor said. “It shouldn’t be an either/or.”
Most other council members seemed to be in agreement.
“It’s been 30 years since the stadium was refurbished,” said Councilman Bob Sklarz, adding that he would also like to see the stadium used to host Section 9 baseball games or perhaps collegiate baseball.
“I have wanted a minor league baseball team from the day I was elected,” added Councilman Anthony Grice. “I have worked with Red Strom (youth baseball program) and some other teams and have invested a lot of time. We have a golden opportunity to transform that park I don’t see it as an either/or (for the kids) I see it for both and I see it as a win-win. My support is for this project.”
Harvey said creating a recreation facilities master plan should be a priority.
“We are united,” the mayor said. “We are supporting this master rec plan.”