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'Berry Fields' To Get $9.3M Makeover

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 13, 2016 5:13pm
 The sports field at Gen. Douglas MacArthur Park will get revamped in a $9.3 million project.
'Berry Fields' To Get $9.3M Upgrade After Funding From Oddo and Matteo
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DONGAN HILLS — A gully of water at third base might be a thing of the past for baseball players at the "Berry Fields."

A $9.3 million revamp of sports fields at Gen. Douglas MacArthur Park — known as the "Berry Fields" or "The Berries" — will include subsurface work to help with drainage and replacing grass with synthetic turf.

The renovations were funded with federal dollars and allocations by Borough President James Oddo and Councilman Steven Matteo, who called on the city to fix the field in October.

"'The Berries' are an institution and our old friend has needed some help for a while," said Oddo, who used to play on the fields himself.

"This has been the Mecca of softball and men’s hardball on Staten Island for a really long time. There’s nothing like playing on these fields under the lights."

The project will be funded with $5.69 million from Oddo, $650,000 from Matteo and $3 million from a FEMA grant originally slated for Timoshenko Field in Midland Beach. The renovations will also include basketball courts in the park, Oddo said.

Matteo said the switch to synthetic turf will allow the field to host more than one game at a time and give Staten Islanders more field options.

"This is such a great, great field and we wanted to expand that," Matteo said.

"We wanted to make sure we're getting the best use of it and, as of right now, we're not getting the best use of it."

The fields — across the street from NYCHA's Berry Houses — has needed repairs for years with players dealing with an uneven center field, ponding and dust.

Oddo previously tried to get repairs for "The Berries" when he was a City Council member by allocating it $2 million, but the project was cut after 9/11.

In October, Oddo and Matteo wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking that the renovations be funded in his budget.

Aside from the renovations, the Parks Department kicked in an extra $500,000 through the Parks Without Borders Initiative to improve the fencing around the fields, said Lynda Ricciardone, borough commissioner for Staten Island.

The department plans to hold meetings for the public to give input on the renovations in September and expects construction to start in 2018.

"This is a hot spot," Ricciardone said. "People love 'The Berries,' we love 'The Berries.' It definitely holds a close spot in our hearts."