In a move that will create plenty of warm fuzzies as well as a host of logistical issues, the New Jersey Jackals (Frontier League) announced the team is leaving Yogi Berra Stadium for Paterson’s Hinchliffe Stadium.
Let’s begin with the warm fuzzies. Hinchliffe Stadium is a historic facility, opening in 1932 and hosting New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans games among other events, including car racing and concerts from the likes of Abbott and Costello. It’s the beneficiary of a $94-million development plan will restore the former home of the Negro Leagues baseball and also feature a 315-space parking garage and a six-story, 75-unit senior housing. The efforts to restore Hinchliffe Stadium have been going on for years; at one point the Ripken organization took a swing at a renovation plan, but in the end it took a lot of persistence and effort by locals to make the project succeed.
Three other ballparks that were full-season homes to Negro Leagues baseball still stand and used for baseball: J.P. Small Park (home of the Jacksonville Red Caps), Hamtramck Stadium (built for the Detroit Stars, restored this year) and Rickwood Field, home to the Birmingham Barons.
Jackals owner Al Dorso’s vision for the facility that includes additional entertainment options, such as concerts, kids camps, traveling teams, training and exhibitions, holiday events and more.
“We’re thrilled to have the Jackals in Paterson and equally pleased to be working alongside Al Dorso, a visionary, change agent and proven businessman with the leadership, acumen and experience to bring additional growth, prosperity and entertainment to our local community,” said Andre Sayegh, Mayor of Paterson, via press release. “This development is another watershed moment, pun intended with the Great Falls nearly adjacent to the stadium, for the city of Paterson and one that will surely act as a catalyst for new expansion, entertainment and jobs in the area.”
“I was born and raised in Paterson and even though I ventured on, I still know this town like the back of my hand and have many fond memories,” said Dorso via press release. “This is a great opportunity at the right time in my life to give back and add to the rich history of this region. More importantly, we have approached this effort with a community-first mindset, starting with working with Mayor Sayegh and other local official and business leaders which we plan to expand to create a true ecosystem of opportunity in the months and years ahead.”
However, there are some logistical issues that were left unaddressed during today’s press conference. First: We’re talking about locating a professional baseball team into the horseshoe football stadium. The rendering at the top of the page is the game plan for the final restoration. Hinchliffe Stadium was built as a high-school football and track venue, and its restoration was based on the assumption that the primary use would be high school track and football. No baseball facilities were included in the restoration plan: no professional-quality clubhouses, no dugouts, no workout spaces, no baseball-oriented luxury or club spaces. In addition, the Paterson Stadium bowl design would need to be changed to accommodate baseball. The synthetic turf would need to be designed to be used both for football and baseball, and it looks like the track–which we’re told doesn’t meet high-school specs anyway–would be eliminated from the design. We’ll be interested to see the price tag for these changes (no field configuration has been finalized), which will not be borne by the Paterson school district. With the Jackals an MLB Partner League member, the new MiLB facility standards won’t apply–luckily for the developers footing the renovation bill.
Also, It will be interesting to see the final field configuration, to be determined. During the Negro Leagues era the diamond was placed dead-center on the field, but in other situations where a diamond was placed in a football stadium (Los Angeles Coliseum, Winnipeg’s Winnipeg Stadium, Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium) the diamond was placed at an angle to the football sidelines, creating a bowl of sorts but resulting in one short field and one incredibly long field. It would definitely have a Polo Grounds feel, with lot of foul space and a temporary outfield fence, with a lot of the seating a far distance from the field.
And there will be some challenges for the Jackals as a secondary tenant, with the Paterson school system having first crack at 180 dates per season. In summer months, this won’t be a huge deal with school not in session; at the beginning and end of the season (including the playoffs), this will be a huge challenge.
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