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Federal grant to aid Hamtramck Stadium restoration

Hamtramck Stadium

Wayne County (MI) has been awarded $490,729 by the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund for restoration of Hamtramck Stadium, one of the few remaining Negro Leagues ballparks.

Hamtramck Stadium originally opened in 1930 and was home to a variety of Negro Leagues teams, including the Detroit Stars and Detroit Wolves. Funding for the ballpark’s renovation has come from a variety of sources, as the City of Hamtramck has been working with Smith Group JJR on a development plan for Hamtramck Stadium. Built by businessman John Roesink in 1930 as the home of the Stars, the ballpark still exists but isn’t used for baseball; the original grandstand (enhanced in 1940 with WPA money) has been shut off, but the playing field is still used by the local community. However, the flagpole and pitchers’ mound are still there. It’s been a long slog to raise the funds needed for a proper restoration, but the federal grant does possibly allow work to begin this summer.

“These grants will fund important projects that document, interpret, and preserve sites that tell the stories of the African American experience in the pursuit of civil rights,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela said in announcing the grant. “Thanks to the coordination of public and private partners, these projects will help connect Americans to historic places that preserve American history.”

Hamtramck Stadium is unique in that it was used as a home base for the Stars and the Wolves, and not just hosting barnstorming teams. In terms of main homes for Negro Leagues teams, we count (besides Hamtramck Stadium, of course) Indianapolis’s Bush Stadium, Jacksonville’s J. P. Small Memorial Stadium, Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, Paterson’s Hinchliffe Stadium and Columbus’s Cooper Stadium/Red Bird Stadium, though Cooper Stadium has fallen into disrepair and doesn’t really resemble the ballpark hosting the Columbus Blue Birds for half of the Negro National League 1933 season. (Similarly, Bush Stadium has been renovated into lofts and is not used for baseball.) In terms of regularly hosting barnstorming Negro Leagues teams or minor-league Negro Leagues teams, many ballparks still stand or partially stand, including Newport’s Cardines Field, St. Joe’s Phil Welch Stadium, Savannah’s Grayson Stadium, Cleveland’s League Park, Havana’s Estadio Gran, Helper’s Ernie Gardner Field, Johnstown’s Point Stadium, Jamestown’s Jack Brown Stadium, Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium, Columbus’s Golden Park, Macon’s Luther Williams Field, Asheville’s McCormick Field, Bristol’s Muzzy Field, Butler’s Butler Field, Chattanooga’s Engel Stadium, Durham’s Durham Athletic Park, Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Bismarck’s Bismarck Municipal Stadium, and there are undoubtedly more out there.

Image courtesy Hamtramck Stadium preservation group

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