Half-ownership of Dietz Stadium is likely to remain with the Kingston City School District after it was determined that the City of Kingston wouldn’t need to have sole ownership to access over $2 million in grant funds for renovations and upgrades. Those plans, school officials say, are vital in helping re-establish Dietz as one of the crown jewels for athletics in the region.
“It was the place,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino at the Sept. 18 school board meeting. “If you played football in high school through the ’70s and ’80s, if you got to Dietz Stadium, that meant something, to becoming a place that lost those playoffs to new, improved fields in Newburgh and Middletown and even north of us.”
Dietz Stadium opened in 1949, and four decades later the school district bought half of the facility for $10 in exchange for sharing in its expenses. Though most often used by the Kingston Tigers for everything from football to lacrosse to track and field, the grounds have gained recent fame as the home of semi-pro soccer side Kingston Stockade FC.
At the heart of the transfer is around $2.1 million in grant funding from the state — as part of its larger $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant to Uptown — to renovate and improve Dietz Stadium, a project which is estimated to cost around $2.5 million. Fixing up the aging stadium and its iconic stands has been frequently discussed by school officials over the years, but as with the city, the school district determined it could not easily receive funding for a facility it co-owns. Giving up their half of the stadium became the obvious choice, said Padalino, when it became clear that the renovations could be covered by a portion of the $10 million DRI grant.
In May 2018, area residents voted 1,673-413 to allow the school district to sign full ownership of Dietz back to the City of Kingston, believing that the state required a single municipal entity to own the property to allow for the grant funding to be used there. But a year later the transfer still hadn’t occurred, and some trustees began to wonder whether it was even necessary in the first place.
Last week, school officials revealed that a new arrangement is being discussed, one which would only require the City of Kingston to maintain “site control” of Dietz, but not necessarily have sole ownership. The terms of the new deal are fairly similar, with the district having priority in scheduling athletic and other events. And not much else is expected to change either.
“The agreement calls for us to make an annual payment for upkeep and maintenance of $95,000 a year, which is approximately what we pay now as our share of the stadium maintenance,” said school board President James Shaughnessy.
The agreement, which while approved by the school board has yet to be discussed by the Common Council, would be renewable in five years, and for every five years after that unless terminated by either side. It will also mean dissolving the Dietz Stadium Commission, though the district would have two seats on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
“I think it’s a fair agreement to both the district and to the city and I think it’s workable,” Shaughnessy said. “In terms of day to day operation it won’t really be much different than what it would be if we had given up ownership.”
On Tuesday, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble said his office would be prepared to discuss further details after the Common Council votes on the matter, which he said he expected would take place on Oct. 8.
“It’s important to recognize that the City of Kingston has been a great partner with the school district for my seven and a half years here, even through two administrations,” Padalino said at the Sept. 18 meeting. “We’ve worked together to build playgrounds at JFK, we’ve worked together to provide transportation from Kingston High School to the stadium for sports practices at a very, at a reduced cost, and for no reason at all other than just he wanted to, the mayor provided to buses to bring people out to the Miller science fair. We’ve always had a very collaborative and cooperative relationship.”