NEWARK — To say that Colburn Park is a busy place for baseball games would be an understatement.
The field on East Union Street, which the village owns, is home to the Newark Pilots of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. However, team owner Bob Ohmann pointed out the Pilots played only 30 of the 120 games staged at the park in 2016.
“That’s a lot of games,” Ohmann stated.
Newark Mayor Jonathan Taylor agreed. In addition to the Pilots, Taylor noted that Newark High School plays there, and the facility plays host to numerous sectional and college games each year.
The field served as the home of the now-defunct Newark Co-Pilots of the New York-Penn League from 1968-79, and has always been a treat for high school players because of its well-
maintained field and professional stadium-feel.
Ohmann credits the village for its dedication to the upkeep of the facility, which opened in 1930.
Still, improvements are always needed, Ohmann continued. And while other baseball facilities in the region have sought state funds for capital improvements, Newark never did, he said.
“We never really asked for anything,” he added.
That is, until he and Newark’s mayor had a conversation with state Sen. Mike Nozzolio, R-54 of Fayette.
The senator was at a Pilots game over the summer — he annually sponsors a game — when he spoke with Ohmann and Taylor about facility needs.
Nozzolio told them to send a list — and they did.
“We included everything we could get done, so we could get the most for the money,” Ohmann said, “and like always, (Nozzolio) did very well,” said Ohmann of the Republican senator, who is stepping down at the end of the year from his state Senate seat representing the 54th District.
Nozzolio, who is retiring at the end of the month, informed Ohmann and Taylor that the state will be providing $50,000 toward improvements at Colburn Park and caution lights on East Maple and Hoffman streets near village baseball fields at Hallagan Park. Most of the money is earmarked for Colburn, Taylor elaborated.
Improvements at Colburn include a better sound system, clubhouse improvements, a larger netting to protect fans and electrical improvements connected to stadium lighting. Bathroom and clubhouse work is planned too.
Taylor said the work will all be done prior to start of the 2017 baseball season.
Continual maintenance of Colburn Park is important to Newark and the county, said Taylor, noting that the many games held there each year bring people into the village — where they are spending money.
“It’s definitely one of the economic drivers,” he said.
The professional feel of Colburn Park includes the field, which Taylor said is one of best maintained in the region. Four years ago, NCAA Division III regionals were held there, he said.
The city’s Department of Public Works maintains the facility, and Ohmann points to DPW member Dan Wilkinson — who formerly worked for the Rochester Red Wings’ grounds crew — as one of the reasons infielders rarely experience a bad hop.
Taylor said he appreciates Nozzolio’s support.
“We’re thankful for everything he’s done for the community and for helping us get this grant,” he said.
Nozzolio said he was glad he could help.
“Throughout its long history Colburn Park has played an important role in the Newark community,” he said in a press release. “During every season of the year, the park provides recreational opportunities for area residents. For over 86 years, the historic Colburn Park has been filled with baseball fans enjoying the national pastime. It was a pleasure to work with Newark Mayor Jonathan Taylor and the Village Board to provide resources for improvements to the park as well as other safety improvements in the village.”
Renovations in recent years at Colburn include a new scoreboard in left field. New lights, a new entranceway and new seats have been added as well.