SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mark Baker was there the day they first put the shovels to the ground on Broadway.
This week, after a 33-year career, the only president the Saratoga Springs City Center has known announced his retirement, to take effect at the end of the calendar year.
Baker came to Saratoga via Wisconsin in the summer of 1983 and remembers hearing about the grumblings of those opposed to the construction of the new building he would oversee in 1984. Decades later he would bear witness to lively debates regarding the design of the building’s multi-million dollar expansion, its booking policies absent of a gun show, and its push for the development of a parking garage. Baker has presided over the Saratoga Springs City Center from its humble beginnings - 24 events accounted for 43.5 days of use in 1984 – and helped it reach the 170-or-so event mark it is anticipated to land this year, with more than 261.25 revenue-producing days. Advance bookings into 2017 are already expected to exceed 2016 sales figures and current bookings for conferences and conventions have been scheduled into the year 2021.
“I have vested much of my professional career, and personal commitment to the success of the City Center,” Baker said in a statement. “I want to be able to pass this incredible facility on to the next leader, with care and well wishes.”
Throughout his tenure, Baker said the City Center has maintained the same mission: to be a positive economic engine for downtown Saratoga Springs. Following the loss of the 5,000-seat Convention Hall in a 1965 blaze, there was much wrangling in the city about what Saratoga should build. By the late-1970s, Glens Falls built its Civic Center, and Albany had The Egg. In Saratoga Springs, it was eventually decided to construct a facility that would bring people into town and provide the opportunity for them to stay. In retrospect, it was the right project at the right time, Baker said. City Center Authority Chair Joseph Dalton said interviews are underway for potential candidates to replace Baker.
Baker, who anticipates retiring Dec. 31, said he is willing to remain in office until the transition of leadership takes place. It is expected Baker will remain on the City Center staff in a limited role to oversee and orchestrate the construction and launching of the City Center parking structure. “It is critical to get this important asset built for the future of the City Center,” Dalton said.
Workshop on Monday for a New Neighborhood Watch Program
A workshop will be held on Monday at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to start a discussion about forming a new Neighborhood Watch program in downtown Saratoga Springs. The free workshop – which is being organized by the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the city Police Department – will take place 5 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14. “We’re hosting this workshop to bring neighbors living and working downtown together so they can look out for one another,” Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “We’ve also committed to creating and distributing Neighborhood Watch signs which will be a visible reminder that the community has taken the necessary steps to deter crime and that this area is being observed.”
Upcoming: The City Council will host a pre-agenda meeting at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14, and its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at City Hall. It is anticipated the City Council will move to amending the recently approved law prohibiting sitting or lying on public sidewalks. Also expected is a vote regarding the conservation easement for the city to purchase the development rights of the Pitney Farm, and vote regarding the Saratoga Springs Complete Streets Plan.
City water and sewer utility bills are due for the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Nov. 15. City and county taxes, as well as utility bills may be paid in person at the Office of Finance in City Hall, by mail, or online at www.saratoga-springs.org. These payments can also be made at Adirondack Trust Co. and Saratoga National Bank. You must have your tax stub to make payments at these locations.
The Design Review Commission will host a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 at City Hall.
The New York State Department of Transportation will host a public information meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to discuss a project to replace the Crescent Avenue bridge over the Northway in Saratoga Springs and the East High Street bridge over the Northway in Malta, both in Saratoga County. The bridges, both built in 1962, are safe but aging to the point where this project is necessary. The project is expected to begin in late 2017 and last until the end of 2018. The meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Music Hall on the third floor of City Hall.