Tuesday November 13, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- City officials expect to determine later this week if Wahconah Park is safe enough to host the last two high school football games of the season.

On Saturday, the Pittsfield High Generals and Drury Blue Devils gridiron match up is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Wahconah Park. The game between the St. Jose’s Crusaders and Hoosac Valley Hurricanes is set to kick off at 1:30 p.m.

However, the doubleheader of football could be moved to a different field because of the city’s concern over the stability of the four outfield light stanchions. One of them blew down during Hurricane Sandy two weeks ago and a second appears to have structural problems.

A structural engineer inspected all eight 90-foot light poles last Friday, but a follow-up inspection is expected early this week, according to Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi.

"We want to take another look to determine what kind of fix is needed," Bianchi said on Monday. "We want to make sure that the stanchions and poles are sound before having a crowd at the park."

Worried another light pole may collapse, city school officials moved Pittsfield High’s game last Saturday to Taconic High School. The game was preceded by the Taconic-Monument Monument contest.

Pittsfield schools Athletic Director Jim Abel said the Taconic football field will again be available to host a twin-bill.

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Joe coach Gary Bianchi said his team would play at Taconic if the alternate site is needed.

Pittsfield High and Drury are already set for an 11 a.m. start at Wahconah Park on Saturday, followed by the St. Joe-Hoosac contest at 1:30 p.m.

As for the future of lights at Wahconah Park, Bianchi said the city’s insurance carrier will help pay the majority of the replacement cost for the damaged stanchion but installing seven other new ones will be costly.

He noted government grant money is available to fund new lights, but the funding is highly competitive.

New lights may be the answer, according to John Herman, chairman of the Pittsfield Parks Commission.

"If necessary, we’ll probably have to replace them as I’m not sure we can fix them," Herman said. "But we’ll have to wait for results of the inspections before any decisions are made."

Aside from football, Wahconah Park hosts high school baseball games in the spring and is the summer home for the Pittsfield Suns of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. It’s unclear the impact the issue of the park lights will have on next year’s baseball schedule at the historic ballpark, city officials said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.