The city’s school board is prepared to use $196,000 in federal funding that it has had for some years to conduct a market analysis and feasibility study for the Hinchliffe Stadium.
The study will provide the city with needed information to determine the steps necessary to market the stadium after it has been rehabilitated and make it a self-sufficient part of the city, said Gianfranco Archimede, director of the historic preservation commission, last Wednesday.
“This is the second large planning step,” Archimede told the school board. He compared the study to what the city has done through a $338,000 contract with New York City-based architectural design firm Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA) which studied the physical structure of the historic stadium.
The market study would of the same magnitude to determine the stadium’s revenue potential and figure out a reusability strategy, he said. He said the study would also identify revenue to keep the stadium running after it has been redeveloped.
Errol Kerr, school board member, asked what will be the next step after the study has been completed. Archimede said the third largest step is likely to be the launch of a national fund raising campaign with assistance from partners who have demonstrated an interest in seeing the stadium revitalized.
Archimede cited the National Trust for Historic Preservation, New Jersey Historic Trust, and others who will assist in launching a national fund raising campaign. With help from the various partners, “Corporate sponsorship is right around the corner,” he said.
WASA estimated the cost to restore the national landmark stands at $24 million, but to modernize it with a new visitor center, seats, and entrance will cost $44 million.
“We really want this to happen as much as you do,” said Kerr. The school board last month delayed expending the funds that has been sitting there since 2009 over questions about its role in the redevelopment of one of the only remaining ball fields where the Negro Leagues held games in a racially segregated America.
The city’s school district owns the crumbling structure that sits behind School 5 steps away from the Great Falls National Park. Last year, the United States Congress extended the boundaries of the national park to include the structure which has been shuttered since 1997.
Public support to restore the stadium goes back to 2005 when city residents expressed a willingness borrow money to redevelop the stadium. Since then, there has been planning steps to see the stadium restored, as it continues to deteriorate.
The more time the city spends in waiting to restore the art-deco structure built in 1931-32 the more expensive it gets to rehabilitate it, said Archimede.
“We really want this to happen as much as you do,” said Kerr.
Jonathan Hodges, school board president, said education officials discussed the stadium couple of weeks ago with mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. It’s been almost one-year since any public discussions took place about the stadium.
“We were told we have to draw down the money by September. If we don’t then we will lose the money,” said Kerr. The school district has little over four months to expend the funds.
Kerr said the school board will consider the study during its June 3rd, 2015 workshop session.
“I drove up there and I just sat there looking at this structure that I know could be of such great benefit for the city, and it’s sitting there” said Kerr.