County to give $9.7 million to repair Mount Vernon's Memorial Field

MOUNT VERNON - Plans to renovate the historic red-brick stadium and playing surfaces at Memorial Field grew closer to reality this week, as Westchester County officials agreed to commit millions to the effort.

The county Board of Legislators approved $1.3 million in borrowing for the design of the project at a meeting Monday, part of a larger county commitment of $9.7 million to renovate the Mount Vernon sports facility.

"In the future, not only residents of Mount Vernon, but also Pelham and surrounding areas will have the opportunity to have a great state-of-the-art facility that will host regional tournaments and games," said Larry Schwartz, Westchester’s deputy county executive.

The county earmarked the funding through its Legacy Program, which was created in 2001 to preserve and enhance green spaces. Memorial Field will be open to all Westchester residents as long as financing by the county continues, but will be operated and managed by the Mount Vernon Department of Recreation.

Renovations at Memorial Field have been talked about for years, but the project picked up steam recently with the elections of county Legislator Lyndon Williams and Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young, who highlighted the park project in their campaigns.

The improvement plan calls for the demolition of existing structures, grandstands and courts. In its place, the plan calls for a synthetic turf football and soccer field, a natural turf soccer field, grandstands for 4,000 spectators, an all-weather track and a basketball court.

The plan also includes new buildings to house a ticket booth, a concession stand, bathrooms, press box and locker rooms, as well as new sidewalks, landscaping and lighting. The whole project is expected to cost around $12.7 million.

Mount Vernon residents say renovations at Memorial Field are long overdue. The facility is used by families, runners, recreation leagues and the Mount Vernon High School football team. The stadium has also hosted concerts, fairs, derbies and rodeos.

Sonia McKenley, a city resident who lives near the park, said she used to go walking on the gravel and dirt track regularly for about 10 years. But she stopped using the track after she became disabled and had to walk with a cane. She said the ground was too muddy and uneven for her to continue her routine.

Despite disrepair at Memorial Field, McKenley said it was a popular park and she was glad to hear that plans for improvements were finally under way.

"I see the county is onto this again, which is a good thing because we really need that field," she said.

January, 2009