Hamtramck’s Negro League ballpark closer to rebirth

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — A historic Negro League ballpark in the city is another step closer to revitalization.

The city is seeking proposals from historic preservation teams to provide pre-development planning and design services for the Hamtramck Stadium in Veterans Memorial Park. The stadium sits on Dan Street off Joseph Campau.

The goal is to develop the city-owned stadium site into a multi-purpose facility for activities including organized sports events, pickup games and concerts.

Development of the site — the city’s largest green space — is much needed in the densely populated community, said Hamtramck City Planner Melanie Markowicz. The park is a draw for tennis, baseball and cricket.

“This project will enhance recreational opportunity,” she said.

The request is funded through a $50,000 grant the National Park Service awarded Hamtramck earlier this year toward a redevelopment plan.

Hamtramck Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 because of its association with segregated sporting and African-American civil rights in the 20th century. It is one of few remaining stadiums custom-built for a Negro League team in the country. A Michigan Historic Marker was installed in 2014.

The stadium was home to the Detroit Stars beginning in 1930. In recent years, the grounds have been used informally for baseball, cricket and soccer games. The grandstand is closed to the public.

According to the city, the planning will focus on assessing the stadium’s condition and developing a reuse plan.

“We’re going to respect the historic nature of the structure while adapting it for modern use,” Markowicz said.

The deadline for proposals is Aug. 18.

Markowicz said she expects the plan to serve as a tool to apply for additional grants and generate support for fundraising efforts.

“Now we need a good solid estimate for how much we need to raise,” said Gary Gilette, president of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, a nonprofit that began researching the history of the stadium seven years ago.

The group plans to launch a fundraiser in September to renovate the field, Gilette said.

“We want to restore the whole area and make it available for soccer, cricket and baseball while we await restoration of the grandstand,” he said.

Gilette said he hopes the stadium project can be completed by 2019 in time to celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Detroit Stars.


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN