Al Krueger Field, a Perham (Minn.) WPA ballpark that’s hosted Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (independent; American Association) exhibitions, is slated to be torn down because of unsafe conditions.
Some background. In 1935, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) launched as an initiative from the Roosevelt Administration to bring financial relief necessitated by the Great Depression. It expanded on the existing Civil Works Administration (CWA) as a vehicle for both easing unemployment and improving infrastructure in the form of bridges, civic centers and other public buildings, including ballparks and stadiums. The WPA ended at the start of World War II, when the national government diverted resources to the war effort.
There are still a host of ballparks funded by the WPA still standing and in use, including Municipal Stadium, home of the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League); Wade Stadium, home of the Duluth Huskies (summer collegiate; Northwoods League); Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, home of the Wichita Wingnuts (independent; American Association); Calfee Park, home of the Pulaski Mariners (rookie; Appalachian League); Larks Park, home of the Hays Larks (summer collegiate; Jayhawk League); Ashford University Field, home of the Clinton LumberKings (Low Class A; Midwest League); Fleming Stadium, home of the Wilson Tobs (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League); and Municipal Stadium, home of the San Jose Giants (High Class A; California League). This is not exhaustive list by any measure — just a sampling.
Most of the WPA-funded ballparks have been extensively renovated in recent years, left to decay, or torn down: we’re talking about 70-year-old facilities here. If you look at a ballpark like Wade Stadium or San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, it’s pretty apparent that these were ballparks built to last: despite some benign neglect from Duluth, for example, the brick construction and metal roof at the Wade have held up extremely well.
Sadly, Al Krueger Field has not held up as well. Perham isn’t a large town — the north-central-Minnesota community has 2,600 or so residents — but it is a center of amateur baseball in Minnesota, and the ballpark has always been a point of pride for the community. The current plan calls for tearing down the current 700-seat grandstand and replacing it with something smaller and nicer, seating 400 or so and adding a brick facade. More on the plan from LakeAreaSports.com.
One of our publishing projects for 2012 is a book on the ballparks funded by the WPA, and we’ve started to put together a list of WPA-funded facilities. If you have a WPA ballpark in your community, please drop us a line and let us know about it. There doesn’t seem to be a central repository of WPA projects (inquiries far and wide, including many to the National Archives, have not yielded much), and it looks like we’ll need to build a list from scratch. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org; we could use the help.
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