Over the past year, I’ve written a couple of different pieces about the renovation of historic League Park in the Hough neighborhood. I was excited when I first heard in January that the long-awaited face lift would finally take place. For years it seemed that the city would see this renovation take place “soon.” When plans finally started to progress earlier this year, I was shocked and cautiously optimistic. Even though the renovation was supposed to start in spring or late summer of this year, at least it finally appears to be happening.
I wrote another blog post in June providing some additional detail on the renovations. The city of Cleveland was considering the use of an artificial turf surface, something that concerned people who were focused on preserving the historic nature of the site (myself included). At the time, it did not seem as if the turf was a done deal – it sounded as if there was still time for the city to change its mind on this aspect of the renovation. After I read the article from the Plain Dealer on Saturday’s groundbreaking, it seems as if the turf is definitely something that is going to happen. They hope to complete the project by next September.
In the June piece I mentioned about, I already talked about my opposition to the turf surface. To reiterate some of those ideas, I think this is something that could diminish the historic feel of a revitalized League Park. If you’ve ever visited Rickwood Field in Alabama, the natural grass and the various nostalgic details makes it seems as if you’re entering a time machine to another era. I’m guessing the reason for the turf is due to the fact that it is seen as more cost-effective, and easier to maintain. While it’s true that you won’t have to mow turf, it’s not as if it requires absolutely no maintenance. Certain types of turf require the replenishment of rubber filler every so often and eventually it’s going to wear out and need replaced. I also cited a piece from the American Journal of Sports Medicine that claimed football knee injuries are 40% more likely on turf, compared to natural grass. There are high school and youth football teams that practice at League Park, and it’s certain the injuries could be prevalent with other sports. While someone can be injured on grass, artificial turf takes a greater toll on joints and muscles.
As I’ve said in the past, this may not be an issue to you, and you may not be concerned with the installation of artificial turf at League Park. As someone who is seeking a Ph.D. in history, I’m obviously going to be far more concerned by something that I think could compromise the historic nature of League Park. I just find it frustrating that after all of these years of inactivity at the site, they’re so close to getting this right and bringing baseball back to the corner of E. 66th and Lexington. The rest of the plans I’ve seen for League Park look wonderful, and will make the park a jewel for the city. Why not go the distance and make sure there is real grass growing on the field, just as there was when Babe Ruth hit home run number 500, when Tris Speaker patrolled the outfield, when the Indians won the 1920 World Series, and when the Negro League Cleveland Buckeyes won the 1945 World Series. Make this a site that not only honors the past, but can provide memories for the countless people that will use it in the future.