Paraphrasing Shoeless Joe Jackson from the movie “Field of Dreams,” David Karpinski said when they finish building the “Legends Park at Parkhurst Field,” tourists will come to Fulton County.
Speaking to the Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Karpinski, the executive director of the Parkhurst Field Foundation, said those tourists will include 16 traveling Little League baseball teams, plus their parents, that will come to Fulton County for weekend tournament play every week for 10 weeks during the summer.
“You’re talking about 16 teams a week, average number of players is 13, total number of competing athletes is 280,” Karpinski said. “The average number of people who travel with each athlete is 2.14. The total number of attendees is about 445 per week. It’s just a four-day tournament, that turns over each week with new teams.”
Karpinski told supervisors traveling Little League teams in the U.S. account for $7 billion in annual tourism spending, and the $1.8 million he expects to be spent locally at Parkhurst Field will create about 32 new jobs.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman John “Jack” Callery presented Karpinski with a ceremonial $1 million check Tuesday, part of the “Destination Fulton County” tourism strategy unveiled in August that uses money from the $10.4 million in federal funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March.
Karpinski gave supervisors a presentation about the Parkhurst Field Foundation’s plans to spend the money to build the destination Little League park on the site of the former A.J&G Park that baseball legends Honus Wagner and Cy Young played on.
“I think it’s uncanny that we are here on Oct. 12, 116 years, to the day, from when the FJ&G railroad contracted with the Judson family for the land on Harrison Street to build grandstands and the destination known as the A.J&G Park,” Karpinski said, showing an article from the Leader-Republican newspaper from 1905. “They talked about a park that was going to be second to none. That it would have grandstands to fit 1,500 people … they were building a state-of-the-art facility, and 116 years to the day later, we’re about to do the same thing.”
Karpinski used data from a detailed analysis of the spending involved with traveling Little League baseball teams in Michigan, and said it was analogous to his personal experience as a coach of traveling Little League teams and as a parent of players.
He said he’s seen firsthand how easy it is to spend about $985 per weekend at the tournaments, between hotels, restaurant meals, groceries, concessions, fuel and sporting goods and souvenirs.
“It all adds up,” he said, showing data that indicates 71.4% of the attendees of the baseball tournaments are likely to stay at a hotel, 85% are likely to buy food at a restaurant, 80% will buy gasoline, 53% will visit downtown, 50% will visit at least one store, about 74% will recommend the area to friends and family and 19% may consider buying summer homes in the area.
“That’s the economic development this project will bring to the area,” he said.
Karpinski said his projections anticipate about 9% of the Little League players will be from Fulton County, 10% from the Capital Region and about 50% will come from other regions of New York state. He said he anticipates 11% of the traveling teams will come from Western Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut and 20.4% from other states.
“The average spend, per non-local family, is almost $1,000,” Karpinski said. “In my mind, we’ll draw from Maryland to New Jersey, people who want the Adirondack experience. They’ll come and they’ll play at this park.”
Karpinski provided supervisors with a virtual tour of the plan to build “Legends Field”, a premier Little League tournament baseball field and a concession stand modeled after the original clubhouse at the location. He said the $1 million federal grant from Fulton County shifted the schedule of the original $2.3 million capital plan to build five baseball fields at the location to now focusing on “the front” of the facility, which would be used to host the little league tournaments.
“I’ve met with the Gloversville Little League, who are the owners of the land, after the announcement of [the $1 million grant] a month and a half ago and said to them that we have this commitment from Fulton County, so we’re going to build the front of the place first, so bare with us,” Karpinski said.
Karpinski said the Parkhurst Foundation has to replace two of the existing playing fields on the property in order to build the premier field “centerpiece” of the new facility and its grandstand.
“We offered to build one adjacent field, which will be a temporary field, because we’re displacing two fields for them,” he said. “So, we’re going to build the state-of-the-art facility Fulton County wants, and a temporary field for [Gloversville Little League] until we get to Phase 2. We got unanimous consent from their Little League board to proceed with this development and to [break ground on construction] next July .”
“The grandstands we’re building will sit in the original spot of the grandstands in 1906,” he said. “The home plate is exactly where it was when Honus Wagner and Cy Young and Moonlight Doc Graham, from ‘Field of Dreams,’ all of those all-time-greats, stood. So, players will be able to say, ‘I played on the same field.’”
The projected timeline for the project has the grandstands completed by summer of 2023, after which the facility could host smaller tournaments. He said construction of an additional three baseball fields will be needed before the facility has the size necessary for full tournament play with 16 teams, and that will cost about another $1 million.
Karpinski said construction of the concession stand will also cost an additional $500,000. He said the Parkhurst Foundation has about $300,000 it has raised from private donations in addition to the $1 million grant. He said the facility will ultimately also include a gift shop for baseball memorabilia, some of the proceeds of which will be used to help pay the cost of traveling team baseball participation for local athletes.