Recently, it was announced that Hinchliffe Stadium’s lease with the City of Paterson will be extended for 75 years. While at first glance, this appears to be some semblance of a victory, there are many questions that need to be asked.
Why is it important to extend a lease, when the logical approach would be to allow the City of Paterson to own Hinchliffe Stadium with the stipulation that Paterson Public Schools’ Athletic Department have access to the stadium?
It has been well documented that the Paterson Public Schools failed Hinchliffe Stadium since the school district took over the property in 1963. In that 57-year time frame, the stadium saw a poor reorientation of the baseball diamond, an unnecessary extension that created a sink hole, and the implementation of artificial turf, on asphalt, which was damaging to student athletes. While these three examples were problematic, there were many more poor decisions and indifference toward Hinchliffe Stadium that are directly attributed to the Paterson Public Schools.
What will the next 75 years look like for Hinchliffe Stadium under Paterson Public Schools ownership?
In 1997, the school district claimed that they didn’t have the money to repair Hinchliffe Stadium. At that time, there were two offers on the table. Demolish Hinchliffe Stadium at a cost of $4 million dollars or rehabilitate at a cost of $4.8 million dollars. The superintendent at that time was leaning toward demolition, essentially selling out a city of approximately 150,000 for $800,000. Since $4 million would have been committed for demolition, Paterson would have essentially had a restored stadium for an additional $800,000.
Since money has always been a sticking point, it is important to state that revenue generating events is what will keep Hinchliffe Stadium as an active venue for the next 75 years. This may be difficult to attain if the Paterson Public Schools balk at ensuring that revenue generating events are not made fully available to interested parties.
If there are minimal events, will the Paterson Public Schools ensure paying for the necessary yearly repairs over the next 75 years? Will there be a Capital Reserve Fund?
What has been lost in the Hinchliffe Stadium saga is why we are here in the first place. Simply put: It’s the African American history component. Without the Negro Leagues, Hinchliffe Stadium would not be the important National Historic Landmark that it is, and most likely, the tax credits for the stadium’s rehabilitation would not exist.
With the national reckoning on race relations, is it not important to fully highlight Hinchliffe Stadium’s standing as an African American historic site?
What assurances do we have that the Paterson Public Schools will return home plate to the exact location where Hall of Famer and Patersonian Larry Doby once stood?
There has also been talk about including a track at Hinchliffe Stadium. Yet, it is widely known that the proposed track cannot be used for high school competition.
Why expend funds for a track that cannot be used for competitive racing?
There are still many unknowns for Hinchliffe Stadium. Stadium ownership, the return of the Negro Leagues diamond and the track issue need to be addressed in a correct manner.
Here’s to the next 75 years.
President of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium