Twenty years ago this month, Hinchliffe Stadium closed its doors. Laval Wilson, the superintendent of the Paterson Public Schools in 1997, was presented with two options, restoration at a cost of $4.8 million dollars or demolition at a cost of four million dollars. With a difference of only $800,000, Wilson was leaning toward demolition and leaving the community with a pile of rubble.
Additionally, Wilson was also quoted as saying that he “doubts Hinchliffe will ever be on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Today, the only demolition that exists is by the continued neglect that began with Wilson’s narrow minded thinking and Hinchliffe Stadium is a National Historic Landmark, a designation that far surpasses the National Register of Historic Places.
Soon, the City Council will vote on a measure for Phase One rehabilitation of Hinchliffe Stadium.
Between the time of Wilson’s ill-conceived comments and the City Council’s upcoming vote, Hinchliffe Stadium has experienced more than its share of atrocities. Those atrocities range from vandalism due to lack of proper security to the loss of “Save America’s Treasures” funding due to the negligence of the State Office of Historic Preservation which claimed that Hinchliffe Stadium was only locally significant on the National Register of Historic Places, a claim that contradicts itself.
A recent City Council workshop featured a presentation on Hinchliffe Stadium. To the credit of the governing body, pertinent questions were asked. For instance, members of the council questioned if anyone from the Paterson Public schools were present? While the long form answer is, they haven’t been present in regard to Hinchliffe Stadium for over 20 years, there was no representation at the workshop.
Another councilperson asked about private investment. While that potential exists, that process can only be streamlined if the City of Paterson owns Hinchliffe Stadium outright. A municipality is responsible for a number of areas such as: community development, economic development, historic preservation and public safety, all of which touches on Hinchliffe Stadium.
The sole focus of the Paterson Public Schools should be educating children, not owning and operating a sports and entertainment venue which they have severely neglected. Private/public partnerships thrive when the process is streamlined. Once the stadium reopens, it will certainly be a home to BOTH Eastside and Kennedy athletics. An emphasis on ‘both’ as more options should be available to the Paterson student athlete.
Another councilperson inquired about the proposed track and its cost. In theory, the cost of a track should always be the same, however, Hinchliffe’s potential track will cost far more. Due to Hinchliffe’s configuration, the field would have to be extended and an intricate support mechanisms installed in order for the track to be properly placed. The biggest question is: What is the return on investment on a track that will exceedingly cost more than normal?
At the end of the day, Hinchliffe Stadium must generate some revenue so that it does not return to a dilapidated site after it is rehabilitated. The hope is that the impending business plan for Hinchliffe Stadium will speak to appropriate measures in order to attract a third party private/public partnership, with an eye for what Paterson will look like 20 years from now, something that was clearly not thought of 20 years ago.
The time is now for Hinchliffe Stadium. The time is now to streamline the process.
President of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium