Housing over baseball: Dutchess County diverts funds from minor league park

County exec strikes out on plan to allocate $13M in federal rescue funding for Yankees' affiliate's ballpark upgrades

Marcus J. Molinaro in front of Dutchess Stadium in Wappinger Falls (Dutchess County Government, Ynsalh, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)
Marcus J. Molinaro in front of Dutchess Stadium in Wappinger Falls (Dutchess County Government, Ynsalh, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

After locals balked, Dutchess County decided there are better ways to spend millions of dollars in federal funds than improving the home of the New York Yankees’ local minor league affiliate. Like building more homes for people.

The county has diverted $9.5 million originally intended for upgrades to Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls, home of the Class-A Hudson Valley Renegades, the Times Union reported. The county previously allocated $12.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding for the stadium, but the majority of those funds will instead go toward housing in the area.

The pivot was made earlier this month, according to the Times Union, after County Executive Marc Molinaro’s plan to allocate more than one-fifth of the county’s $57 million in ARP funds to the stadium drew pushback from members of the community, who criticized the lack of resources being put towards other issues.

County comptroller Robin Lois noted that while $12.5 million was allocated for the stadium, only $1.7 million was earmarked for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure investments.

Molinaro said that any improvements to the stadium will need to be delayed because of rising costs tied to inflation. The county has until the end of 2024 to spend the federal funds, and Molinaro, citing the stadium’s importance as a tourism destination, told the newspaper that improvements to the facility could be revisited later in the year.

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A lack of housing is becoming a problem in Dutchess County, where inventory dropped 44 percent last year, according to Houlihan Lawrence’s fourth-quarter report. The median sale price for a home in the country was $396,000 in the fourth quarter, up 7.3 percent year-over-year.

The county has also proposed allocating a further $3.5 million from its own budget towards housing to complement the ARP funds. An additional $7 million in ARP funds will be used for homeless housing and services, according to the Times Union.

“This should have been the case from the get-go,” Dutchess County Minority Leader Yvette Valdés Smith told the newspaper.

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[Times-Union] — Holden Walter-Warner