Why did the Memorial Field project take 12 years to complete?

Nadia Galindo continues her coverage with a look at all of the roadblocks to reopening Memorial Field, including illegal dumping and political fighting.

News 12 Staff

Sep 15, 2022, 4:32 PM

Updated 646 days ago


Many people have watched the slow decay and decline of Memorial Field, including Tommy Deagan.
"Back then, the place was beautiful," he said.
Deagan has been selling hot dogs from his food truck outside the Mount Vernon stadium for decades.
"How long have I been selling hot dogs? 45 years," he said.
Memorial Field was built in the 1930s and endured decades of glory. It was the site of the Mean Joe Greene Coca-Cola commercial, and the Jackson 5 played there.
"I was a little kid climbing over the fence when Michael Jackson was here," said Mount Vernon resident Joe Jennette. "Amazing. The lights, the lights was everything, seeing him dance and spin around."
Many people have fond memories of the field, including Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, who was in the marching band at Mount Vernon High School and graduated on Memorial Field.
"Memorial Field was that natural organic meeting place," said Patterson-Howard. "There were gospel concerts at Memorial Field, there were relays for life, the rodeo, the Black rodeo came to Memorial Field."
Long gone are those days. The last Mount Vernon High School football game at the field was played in 2007. The field officially closed for good in 2010.
"Aug. 27, 2010 I could see the sign they hung on the wall, closed for renovations," remembered Deagan.
The project was slated to only take a few years but ended up taking 12 years.
"You had four mayors before me, each who ran their own race," said Patterson-Howard. "And instead of passing the baton on from one person to the other to finish that lap around the track, the plans kept getting changed."
Changing plans were only part of the problem.
The field also became the grounds for illegal dumping of toxic materials under Mayor Ernie Davis.
No one was ever held accountable for the illegal activity, but the Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed the city did pay a $40,000 fine.
The project was also marred with corruption, as former city water commissioner and head of the project Anthony Bove was sentenced to 15 months in prison back in 2016 for a bribe made on the field itself.
Former Mayor Richard Thomas deflated the bubble protecting tennis courts at the property, sparking outrage and lawsuits.
"It's obviously a missed opportunity," said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
Latimer has watched the political turmoil surrounding the Memorial Field, a community center he has fond memories of - having also played in the marching band and graduating on the field.
"I grew up in Mount Vernon, I'm a south-side Mount Vernon boy, went to public schools all the way through."
He helped turn this eyesore into something the community can finally use.
In August 2020, Latimer and Patterson-Howard held a fifth groundbreaking at Memorial Field.
Jointly, Thomas and Latimer held a public hearing for input on the project in 2019.
"The county said look, turn the project over to us, sign a municipal agreement with the county, we will get it done," said Latimer.
There was one final roadblock, a pandemic that pushed the $25 million projects completion back by a year.
"It took longer than we thought and it was more costly than we thought," Latimer said.
Now the field of broken promises is set to reopen.
The Mount Vernon Knights football team is scheduled to play its first home game at Memorial Field next Saturday.

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