The Lafayette Aviators (summer collegiate; Prospect League) played their final Loeb Stadium game Tuesday, giving fans a chance to say goodbye to the facility before it is demolished to make way for a new ballpark.
The 2019 season was the last for the Aviators at the original Loeb Stadium, which first opened in 1940 and also plays host to the Colt World Series. Baseball will return to the site of Loeb Stadium in the future, but it will come in a new ballpark that is being planned for a 2021 opening. Current plans for the new facility call for effectively flipping the diamond, placing a new grandstand in what’s now past center field. The new ballpark will be smaller than the current Loeb Stadium, seating only about 2,000, with a synthetic turf to allow more use in a longer season.
On Tuesday night, the Aviators hosted the Champion City Kings in their final game at Loeb Stadium. With preliminary demolition set to begin next week, the game gave many the opportunity to experience the ballpark one more time before a new era of baseball in Lafayette, IN begins to take shape. More from the Journal & Courier:
The renovation begins quietly on Wednesday, when staff for the Aviators and Lafayette Jeff baseball finish clearing their equipment out of the facility. Next week a construction fence will go up as the preliminary demolition begins. The concrete structure containing the metal bleachers and all those decades of Lafayette nostalgia won’t start coming down until early September.
[Director of operations for Lafayette Parks & Recreation Jon] Miner said items of historic nature, such as the plaques commemorating past Colt World Series champions, will be preserved. Most of the structure will not. Many fans said they came out Tuesday night for one last glimpse of the ballpark before that moment comes.
Rick Anthrop asked for the same seats he and his wife, Sabrina, usually occupy: Section 107, seats 1 and 2, right on the aisle and straight up behind the left-handed batter’s box.
The Anthrops sat on Aviators seat cushions. Self-described baseball fanatics, the couple’s connection to Loeb Stadium ran much deeper than that. They both grew up coming to Columbian Park for Fourth of July fireworks, family reunions, and the “Big Dipper” slide that towers behind the ballpark grandstand on the third base side.
The Aviators have announced that they will play the 2020 season at Purdue University’s Alexander Field. Loeb Stadium has a unique history that includes a period as a host for affiliated minor-league baseball, and even spring training. The Cleveland Indians held spring training there from 1943-1945, when wartime travel restrictions forced teams to train locally instead of in warmer-weather climates.
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