After several attempts to find a new use for War Memorial Stadium, the Greensboro City Council is looking at tearing down most of the historic 1927 structure, preserving only the facade.
The Greensboro City Council took on the issue of the old ballpark this week, debating whether to spend $1.4 million on a partial demolition of the ballpark after attempts to find a financially acceptable use failed. It’s still used for baseball — some 200 games are played there annually — but the games are of an ilk (college, high school, Pony League) where little revenue is generated, and the grandstand infrastructure is not needed. So a councilmember floated a plan to tear down most of the grandstand, leaving the distinctive facade up with some new seating installed:
The plan received some opposition from local ballpark fans, who want to see the old place preserved. Their opposition forced councilmembers to retreat and put off a decision for a future meeting, drawing in other viewpoints regarding historic preservation.
Through the 2004 season War Memorial was home to professional baseball in Greensboro. From our 2003 visit to Greensboro’s War Memorial Stadium:
War Memorial did not begin life as a baseball ballpark: apropos of the era and the region, it originally was built as a football stadium. (You can see the bottom of the U shape when you enter the ballpark to what used to be the end zone.) Over the years it was altered to become more baseball-friendly; though the original curve of the football U can still be clearly seen, other parts of the original football structure (like the original football press box) are gone.
Over the years the ballpark served as the home for the Greensboro Patriots (1930-1934) of the Piedmont League, the Greensboro Red Sox (1941-1942) of the Piedmont League), the Greensboro Patriots of the Carolina League (1945-1957, 1968), the Greensboro Yankees (1958-1967) of the Carolina League, the Greensboro Hornets (1979) of the Western Carolinas League, the Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League (1980-1993), and the Greensboro Bats (1994-2004) of the South Atlantic League.
Baseball was always an awkward afterthought at War Memorial. Earlier professional teams were not thrilled with the ballpark configuration, especially immediately after the ballpark was constructed. The team’s original baseball tenant, the Greensboro Patriots, refused to play in a park with a right-field fence that was 248 feet from home plate (the team hosted some 1929 exhibition games at War Memorial), so a reconfiguration of the ballpark in 1930 moved the diamond closer to the left-field stands, but the right-field fence was still too close for many pitchers — but because of a creek that ran outside the fence (a creek that’s still there), the right-field fence could not be moved any farther out. That same year saw the installation of lights at War Memorial.
In their defense, Greensboro city officials have sought to find a practical use for the ballpark (spurred on by activists, of course), but a measure to raise $5.5 million in tax money for renovations was rejected by city voters back in 2006.
The next step for the City Council: discuss again whether to attempt to renovate the rapidly decaying grandstand or preserve what they can given the limited resources.
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