By Christie Duffy
Hinchliffe Stadium is locked, crumbling and graffitied. But work is underway to bring it back to life.
“The possibilities of Hinchliffe Stadium are endless. Its historic designation is an honor and will aide greatly in restoring what is the only baseball stadium in the nation with this distinction to its past glory. Now the nation and the world can see the beauty of what we hold dear,” said Paterson Mayor Jose Torres.
But the possibility of Hinchliffe gaining national park status drew the ire of at least one non-New Jersey lawmaker. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma posted a picture on Twitter and said, “The House just voted to add this to our national park system.”
This also played out on the Senate floor where Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez responded with his own pictures of repair efforts.
Menendez later tweeted: “The historic Hinchliffe Stadium is among last from the Negro League baseball & worthy of honor & revitalization.”
The second player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball played at Hinchliffe — Hall of Famer Larry Doby.
Two professional Negro League teams called Hinchliffe home. The stadium hosted three professional football teams, boxing, auto racing, entertainment and Paterson public schools sports teams.
The city education commissioner wants to see students use the space again.
“For physical education, for entertainment purposes. When I was growing up it was always something exciting to be able to go to Hinchliffe Stadium and see those inter town rivalry games,” said Education Commissioner Manny Martinez.
The mayor says it will take about $25 million to $30 million to fully restore Hinchliffe. About 1,000 students in Paterson volunteered last April to paint and clean up the entire inside of the stadium.
“There is a lot of work to be done. It has to be supported, fortified in certain areas. I mean we’re talking about a lot of hard work here,” Congressman Bill Pascrell said.
Pascrell says now that the stadium is part of the national park system, it will be possible to acquire private donations, state and local investments, adding that the park already received $1 million in grant money to help with revitalization process. And the city passed a referendum for $15 million to be spent on the stadium.
The National Park Service is currently in the process of drawing up a plan of how to revitalize the area, which will include Hinchliffe if the president signs the bill.