Jamie Keefe is the manager and general manager of the Pittsfield Suns, who open their inaugural season on Thursday. Keefe also managed the Pittsfield
Jamie Keefe is the manager and general manager of the Pittsfield Suns, who open their inaugural season on Thursday. Keefe also managed the Pittsfield Colonials last season. The team lasted two years in the city, leaving after the 2011 season. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
Sunday June 3, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- While the Goldklang Group has shown it can successfully operate baseball franchises and vows it wouldn't leave Pittsfield be cause of Wahconah Park, the group's partners have demonstrated they will leave a facility if it no longer suits their needs.

The Goldklangs own the Pittsfield Suns, who will begin play Thursday night in the summer collegiate Futures League. The team's home will be Wahconah Park, which opened 120 years ago.

After the 1993 season, the Goldklangs moved the New York-Penn League's Erie, Pa., franchise -- which they had owned for three years -- to Fishkill, N.Y., where it became the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Fishkill didn't have a stadium when the Sailors moved there. That park, Dutchess County Stadium, was built over a 71-day span during the winter of 1994.

According to previously pub lished reports, the Goldklangs moved the team to Fishkill because they were having trouble getting a new ballpark in Erie.

The Sailors' former home, Ainsworth Field, built in 1923, was deteriorating. The website ballparks.phanfare.com says Ainsworth Field was decommissioned by minor-league baseball in 1994 because it wasn't up to minor-league standards.

The city of Erie built a new ballpark, Jerry Uht Park, the year after the Sailors left town. (Uht, a local benefactor, established an endowment to support the new stadium). That park currently houses the Erie SeaWolves, the Detroit Tigers' affiliate in the Class AA Eastern League.

Wahconah Park also was the home of two New York-Penn League teams: the Pittsfield Mets (1989-2000) and the Pittsfield Astros, who left town after one season (2001) for a new ballpark in Troy, N.Y.

Plans for a new ballpark in Pittsfield in 2001 dissolved amid a city-dividing controversy in which voters rejected the creation of a Civic Authority that would have maintained that facility.

Worker Derek Lescarbeau paints the grandstand at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield.
Worker Derek Lescarbeau paints the grandstand at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
No new ballpark proposals have surfaced in Pittsfield since then.

The Suns aren't a professional team like the Sailors were, but Jeff Goldklang, the Gold klang Group's managing director, said the group wouldn't exit Pittsfield for the reasons it left Erie.

"We certainly wouldn't leave because we wouldn't get a new stadium," he said. "That's not even on our radar.

"We came to Pittsfield so that Wahconah Park will be our home. If there does come a time if we were successful enough to get involved in a conversation about building a new ballpark, we would love to be a part of that because we believe that Pittsfield deserves a first-class facility.

"That being said, we certainly wouldn't walk away from Pittsfield because of Wahconah Park."