Mount Vernon Mayor Unveils $20M Plan To Rebuild Troubled Memorial Field
John Jordan | June 15, 2016
MOUNT VERNON—Mount Vernon’s storied but troubled Memorial Field has been closed for six years. Mayor Richard Thomas has recently floated plans to rebuild and improve the long-shuttered stadium that will involve another bond issue.
After voters approved a $108-million bond to improve Mount Vernon schools, Mayor Thomas has endorsed a $20-million plan for Memorial Field, the new plan will require a bond issue of as much as $11 million.
On June 3, Mayor Thomas announced the formation of the Memorial Field Engagement Plan geared to improving Memorial Field. In his report on Memorial Field, the mayor outlined three different plan options: Do Nothing, which would still cost $14.2 million to make needed improvements along with required environmental remediation of the site; the “Do the Right Thing” option, which comes in at $20.4 million: and the “Go Long on Parking” option, which would cost $31 million to complete. Mayor Thomas said that he prefers the more than $20 million “Do the Right Thing” option. The mayor said that the city will hold a series of public meetings on the Memorial Field improvement plan.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation served the city with a notice of violation in November 2015 over construction and demolition debris dumped at the field without a permit, according to a report in the Journal News. Westchester County and the City of Mount Vernon agreed in late 2008 to co-fund a $12.8-million project to replace the existing stadium and make other improvements to the facilities there. Memorial Field has been closed for six years. The city has spent more than $2.6 million for previous work and studies on Memorial Field. The county held back further funding when then Mayor Ernest Davis changed the scope of the project, according to the Journal News.
Mayor Thomas said, “Today, we are tackling the biggest problem of our past while remaining optimistic for the future. Memorial Field will be rebuilt. Memorial Field was a destination for families. It was a safe destination for kids. It was an iconic destination for athletes from all over. It was a legendary stage for musicians including the Jackson 5 to share their talent with the world. It was a place where character was built, values were defined, and lessons of victory and defeat were learned. It was more than a field. It was a field of dreams.”
He further stated that the “fiscal mismanagement of this project has come to an end.” Mayor Thomas said, “Memorial Field has suffered over 2,500 days due to “political football” being played resulting in toxic dumping taking away much needed access to sports and recreation. That game is over.”
He said the Mount Vernon City Council, County Legislator Lyndon Williams, State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow and Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino have pledged to work with the city on a plan to improve Memorial Field.
In his report, Mayor Thomas said that the environmental cleanup from the dumping of construction demolition debris at the site will cost $2 million. He added that the NYSDEC has issued a consent order requiring the city to undertake the environmental remediation of the property. In addition to the cleanup, the mayor’s preferred plan calls for $2.6 million to be spent on a synthetic turf football/soccer field, tennis courts and field area; site work and landscaping and site fencing will run $1.6 million; a total of $6 million would be earmarked for a grandstand for 4,000 fans and work on the service building and locker rooms, bathrooms and squash courts; the plan also calls for 3,000 square feet of retail space for restaurants and shops ($1.2 million); elevated walkways at $900,000 and an indoor concrete parking structure for 200 vehicles ($3.2 million). The plan’s total cost includes a 20% contingency ($2.9 million), which brings the total cost to $20.4 million.
According to the mayor’s plan, $7.06 million has yet to be spent from Westchester County’s $9.7-million funding commitment back in 2008. Combined with revenues from several previous bond issues the legacy funding for the project totals $7.96 million.
“Based on Option 2, conservative estimates indicate the city must spend approximately $11 million to fix the field,” the report stated. “Assuming a public bond is passed by the voters, this translates into about $3.10 per month, roughly $37 on the annual tax bill. The cost of sacrificing a few sodas a month carries the potential to create a new field of dreams, a new quality of life in Mount Vernon.”