With a study recommending a $9.5 million investment to improve War Memorial Stadium, Hampton, VA officials are now considering the fate of the home of the Peninsula Pilots (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League).
War Memorial Stadium offers a lot of historic value, having first opened in 1948 to host the New Port News Baby Dodgers, followed by a variety of affiliated and amateur baseball over the ensuing decades. Its longevity in the community is the reason that some in Hampton have favored renovation to the facility rather than a new ballpark, but the results of the study are leading officials to take a longer look at other options.
The city commissioned AECOM, an engineering consulting firm, to study what improvements are needed and what those upgrades would cost. At $9.5 million, it would take a considerable investment to upgrade the venerable 68-year-old ballpark. That estimate mostly addresses structural issues, including field drainage, improved handicap accessibility, and work on the restroom and clubhouse areas. Another piece of the proposal is expanded parking, with the study even including a proposal in which the city would move the adjacent Kentucky Avenue to create additional space.
Given the circumstances, some officials are now arguing that a new ballpark closer to downtown Hampton deserves more consideration. More from the Daily Press:
Councilwoman Teresa Schmidt said the list of issues working against the existing park is long and the cost of renovations may not stack up favorably compared to a potential new facility.
“The location is so bad, being in the industrial part of Hampton, it’s not as inviting for outsiders in particular,” Schmidt said.
She conceded that she’s not a baseball fan and that the community that has built up around War Memorial Stadium has strong feelings about the ballpark.
“People have sentimental feelings toward this old stadium, and you have to honor that, because they are the ones that use it more than I do,” Schmidt said. She said she’d like to see a concept that could bring some elements from the old stadium to a new one as an homage to War Memorial to try to keep the feel that those regular attendees love.
Another councilmember argued that the city should try to prioritize the list of War Memorial Stadium improvements before taking up a new ballpark project. For the Pilots, owner Henry Morgan and his son Hank Morgan, the team’s head coach, made their own suggestions. The Pilots contend that the field and its drainage system are no longer up to par and must be addressed. It was also noted fans have frequently lamented the inadequate restroom facilities and scarcity of parking spaces.
War Memorial Stadium is owned by the City of Hampton and leased to the Pilots, who have played out of the ballpark since 2000.