Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Work will soon begin on restoring one of the most prominent athletic complexes in the region now that Westchester County has awarded a $24.9 million contract for the reconstruction of Memorial Field in Mount Vernon.
The county Board of Acquisition and Contract approved LandTek Group Inc. as the lowest of four bidders submitted two weeks ago. It was the second round of bids after the county, which sought bids in the range of $20 million to $23.5 million, rejected the earlier ones in May because they were too high.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for the field, on East Sandford Boulevard near the Pelham border, on Wednesday.
“The restoration of Memorial Field is both an important tangible and symbolic achievement in the revitalization of Mount Vernon,” County Executive George Latimer said Friday in a statement. “My administration made this commitment and I am immensely proud to see it begin to come to fruition.”
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, who took office in January, called Memorial Field “the symbol of Mount Vernon’s soul for the last decade” and said she looked forward to it being restored for the city’s residents.
“We ran on the premise of forward together, and Memorial Field symbolizes teamwork in action,” she said. “We will run the football into the end zone together.”
The county took over the planning and construction of the project after years of the city squandering earlier county funds and failing to reopen the long-dormant sports field and track. Other than work on a tennis center that was not part of the original plans and the demolition of the grandstands two years ago, there was no progress there at all over the past dozen years.
How we got here
The delays were caused in part by politics but mostly in recent years because of the dumping of contaminated debris there in 2015. The city was ordered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up the site. Most of that work was completed last year but as of last month there was still soil under the existing tennis courts and large boulders that had to be removed.
City and county officials did not initially respond to questions on whether the DEC has signed off that the remediation is complete and construction can begin. Over the weekend a city spokesman said the DEC had signed off verbally and the city was awaiting documentation to that effect.
But a DEC spokeswoman on Monday said the agency had visited the site and was still awaiting submissions from city officials before deciding the work is completed.
Once the construction is completed, the county will turn over Memorial Field to the city.
The county in 2009 committed $9.7 million of what was expected to be a $12 million project under a deal worked out by then-Mayor Clinton Young.
The city received an initial $3.4 million, but when former Mayor Ernie Davis defeated Young in his re-election bid, the money went for work that was not in the original plans. Davis, an architect by training and an avid tennis player, focused on a new tennis center and the restoration of the iconic grandstands. But neither was completed.
LandTek, whose management team includes New York Jets legend Marty Lyons, has built numerous sports fields in Westchester, Long Island and New York City. It recently completed the renovation of synthetic-turf soccer fields at Tibbetts Brook Park Brook Park in Yonkers and Saxon Woods Park in White Plains.
Architectural rendering of plans for Memorial Field in Mount Vernon. Garden Avenue is at the bottom of the picture; Sandford Boulevard is on the right. The proposed skate park is just above the field and track on the drawing.
The project includes a synthetic-turf field for football and soccer, an 8-lane track, a skate park, grandstands, locker rooms and concession stands. There will also be room for three tennis courts in the rear of the property where the Mount Vernon Tennis Center had six courts.
The owners of the tennis center have a pending lawsuit against the city over its dismantling of the tennis bubble two years ago under then-Mayor Richard Thomas.