What to do about War Memorial
War Memorial Stadium has been part of the Greensboro landscape since it was dedicated in 1926, but it hasn’t inspired this much controversy since the Red Wings brought Negro League baseball to the diamond.
These days city planners, preservationists, the city council and residents of the Aycock Historic District are struggling to find a compromise to a situation that started back when talks of a new stadium began in earnest about five years ago.
Keep it! Restore it! Tear it down!
Promises were made about this old stadium, where Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly and other future Hall of Famers once trod, but the issue was formally put before the people in November in the form of a bond issue on the ballots, $5.5 million to bring the grand old dame back to its former luster.
The people politely declined.
And all these cross currents churned into a froth in May when the city proposed to tear down much of the existing structure, including the grandstand and the seats along the first base line.
We should say at this point that, though it was an issue that pre-dates YES! Weekly, we are fans of the new stadium and were anxious to see it built, a position taken because love of the game of baseball won out over a fondness for old buildings. War Memorial simply is not good enough for professional baseball. The field itself, with subtle dips and rises and a difficult pitchers mound, was unsafe for up and coming players for whom an injury could end a career; problems with the concrete in the concession area often resulted in puddles of standing water. The seats splintered and creaked, and some were missing critical pieces of hardware. The locker rooms were embarrassing for visiting teams to see and, on the whole, we felt the arena that was once a jewel was becoming disrespectful to the professional game.
The New York Yankees, who once held the Greensboro Single-A franchise, may have felt that way too.
But we do not hate the old ballpark. In fact we admire its pre-war architecture and the iconic gateway to the diamond. But that’s not the primary reason we don’t want it torn down.
Like we said, promises were made, both to neighborhood residents and preservationists, that this old ballpark would not cease to be a live operation, that it would get its makeover and become the locus of community events, concerts and even baseball games, though not of the professional stripe. Placing the issue in the public’s hands via a bond referendum does not constitute a promise kept.
And we think it’s important to hold people to their promises.
Also, we’ve come up with a great use for the old space: Let the hipsters have it.
The infield is large enough to accommodate a stage, either at home plate or at left or right field, and there are already plenty of restrooms, concession areas and seats. We envision a spring and summer mini-festival series, with crafts and cheap beer and lots of bands, the louder the better, each installment raging until well after the lights cut on.
And if Aycock Historic District residents are serious about keeping the old ballpark, they shouldn’t mind the noise all that much.