The Kingston City School District closed out its fall sports season a few weeks ago, including numerous games at Dietz Stadium. Over the summer, Kingston Stockade FC played its 2022 season on the turf at Dietz. Both the school district and semi-pro soccer team will be unable to access the venerable stadium again for at least a year, possibly 18 months, as a major $18.7 million renovation project gets underway.
The ambitious renovation plan seeks to retain the character of the historic stadium, while modernizing and upgrading other areas, including a new field turf and track surface, a scoreboard with high-definition video, upgraded audio, grandstand repairs and upgrades, new locker rooms, and an entrance to the field that will allow players to access locker rooms without having to walk around the building. A new concession stand and upgraded press box are also in the works.
Also included in the plans are renovations to the Andretta Pool facility.
For the Kingston City School District and Stockade FC alike, the renovations are very welcome. But they also present a problem: Where to play and practice while the work is taking place? For the KCSD, answers to those questions came into greater focus during a meeting of the Board of Education held on Wednesday, November 16.
Director of Physical Education, Health and Athletics Richard Silverstein explained that sports are a big deal across the district, particularly between varsity, junior varsity and modified sports. According to Silverstein, during both the fall and spring sports seasons, Kingston has around 1,000 student athletes; that number drops to around 600 in the winter season.
Winter sports at Kingston High School are not impacted by the Dietz closure, with all but skiing taking place indoors. But Dietz is home to several fall and spring sports programs, including football, field hockey, lacrosse, and track and field.
“Just to put this in perspective, with Dietz Stadium closing, we’re going to be losing about 125 events a year,” said Silverstein.
KCSD Superintendent Paul Padalino said the district is unique in how far flung its sports programs are. In addition to Dietz Stadium, games and practices are held at middle and elementary schools across the district.
“I don’t think everyone really realizes is how land poor we are as a school district,” Padalino said. “It’s very unusual to have a high school that has no fields…And even with Dietz Stadium, we transport students all over the city, all over our district for practices and events. So losing Dietz, an undertaking of this level is really a monumental task.”
That task was detailed by Silverstein and Matt Urcioli, assistant director of athletics and physical education lead teacher.
M. Clifford Miller Middle School and the adjacent E.R. Crosby Elementary School already feature sports fields used by Kingston High, including Gruner Field, home of the Tigers’ baseball team, which will also host field hockey. At Miller and Crosby, Old Burke Field will be the home of modified softball; Fields 1 and 2 will feature boys lacrosse and soccer, with the former also the site of cross country; Field 3 will also feature soccer, girls lacrosse, and girls flag football; Field 4 will welcome both soccer and girls lacrosse; Field 5 will be the home of varsity girls lacrosse and modified football.
Meanwhile, at Chambers Elementary School, there will be soccer and field hockey in the fall, and track and field in the spring, including a dedicated training spot, as well as an isolated shot put and discus area. Softball, both varsity and JV, will also happen at Chambers.
Urcioli explained that because of inadequate lighting, some sports which are traditionally played on the same field with varsity happening after JV will now be played simultaneously on adjacent fields. There will be some portable lighting, as well as portable scoreboards. And he added that the district is already aerating and seeding in preparation for the additional use of some of the fields.
“We’ve got to get the grass ready, get the roots strong,” Urcioli said. “Because we don’t want the green to get torn up, making it unsightly.”
But the district has been unable to find the space within its own boundaries for everything: A large annual spring track and field event hosted by Kingston at Dietz Stadium will instead take place at F.D.R. High School in Hyde Park. And home games for the 2023 Kingston Tigers’ varsity football team will be played at Rondout Valley High School, with all those games being played on Saturday afternoons as Rondout traditionally plays its home games on Friday nights.
“We all know there are going to be bumps, there are going to be hiccups, we’re going to have to make adjustments, and there are going to be opportunities for us to improve as we go through it,” Padalino said. “But we’re using basically every part of this district that has a blade of grass on it to find places for our students to play, and we can do it.”
Two days later, Padalino addressed another Kingston High tradition that will be impacted by the Dietz Stadium closure: The KHS Class of 2023 commencement ceremony will likely take place in another school district.
“Right now we are speaking to several different places to see if we can maybe use their location,” Padalino said. “I don’t want to say which, because I know the people we’re talking to probably haven’t spoken to their (School) Boards about it yet. We’re anticipating possibly using one of our neighbors’ stadiums close by, maybe providing some shuttle service for people.”
Padalino said he hoped to be able to have a more definitive answer about the graduation ceremony by the School Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 14.
Meanwhile, Kingston Stockade FC has been calling Dietz Stadium home since its inaugural season in 2016. The National Premier Soccer League club recently sent out a survey to its mailing list asking how far they’d be willing to travel for the 2023 season, which takes place in the thick of summer. Among the options were Accord, Poughkeepsie, and Dutchess County, which Stockade Chairman Dennis Crowley said was meant to indicate somewhere across the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge.
“People are very supportive of Duchess, which I interpreted as Rhinebeck or going down to Poughkeepsie,” Crowley said. “And so if we can figure out a way to do that, I think that’s great, because I think that the quality of the stadiums [are] a little bit higher.”
Crowley said there are other considerations the club is looking into to try and approximate its friendly-but-feisty Dietz atmosphere, including food trucks and the Keegan Ales beer tent. Other Stockade FC followers have proven they show up for games away from Dietz.
“I’m sure the Dutch Guard (supporters group) will be there,” Crowley said. “They’ll be as loud as they normally are, and I think they’ll travel wherever we end up going. And I think that we will by default get at least half as many fans as we normally have.”
Crowley also sees this upcoming semi-nomadic journey as an opportunity.
“The team is the Kingston Stockade: We play in Kingston and Kingston is our home,” Crowley said. “But I look at the data from who buys the season passes, and there’s people really all over the Hudson Valley that come up. And so I think there’s an opportunity if we were a little bit closer to fans by being a little bit further south, even just for one season that you can get this really good emotional attachment and then bring those people back up to Dietz the next season…And if it allows us to tell a big story about not just Kingston, but about the entire Hudson Valley, and this is a Valley team and this is probably the biggest and best team in the Hudson Valley. I think that’s a great story.”
Like the KCSD, Stockade FC is looking forward to improvements at its home turf.
“What I think sometimes we take for granted how perfect Dietz is in terms of hitting all of the requirements for the league, from a scoreboard with a working clock to locker rooms with showers, to having a fence around that has multiple points of egress, to an American flag. I mean it’s a laundry list of 20 things that your stadium has to have,” Crowley said. “And in 2016, I remember before we launched the club being like, wow, Dietz amazingly has all of these things. And if you’ve traveled to other NPSL stadiums, you realize that’s rare that a stadium will tick off all of the boxes…But the stadium is badly in need of upgrades and this is going to be a great thing, not just for us, but for everyone who makes use of the stadium.”