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.


  • Dave W. says:

    Thanks for the update, Stephanie. At least artificial turf can be replaced, if someone has the sense to do so. Maybe now that this is truly going to happen, there will be some opposition to such a silly decision.

    In the meantime, I’m just amazed at the rationale for this:

    “Paul Volpe with City Architecture said the ball field will have artificial turf.

    ‘So, we can play early in the Spring and late into the Fall. And, it will be very maintainable and durable …’ ” (From the Fox 8 item on the groundbreaking.)

    Hard to even know where to begin on this comment. How “early in the spring” would anyone think it would be possible to play, given the weather? The Indians are able to play on grass, as soon as early April. Isn’t that soon enough? Late into the fall? LIke when — around Thanksgiving? The first part of December? There’s no reason in the world why anyone would need to play baseball in Cleveland outside the traditional period of April-October. (Fine, if the Indians were get to a World Series, and Selig’s schedule has Game 7 planned for early November, there’s a happy exception.)

    But wow. And the idea that grass wouldn’t be “maintainable” enough is beyond ridiculous. Where is there a precedent for a restoration this short-sighted?

    What truly galls me about this is that I’m sure there would be city officials and others who would say that a complaint of this kind is nitpicking, and that it’s a miracle that the project is being undertaken at all. The problem is, if you’ve gone to the trouble of putting home plate where it was historically; extending the height of the right field wall to match the original, and other sophisticated details, you don’t compromise on something as simple to recreate as the playing surface. If you’re going to compromise, you do it on something that’s prohibitively expensive, or some obvious improvement that eventually would have had to be made if the original had stayed in use — like lights. (I always wondered what would have happened if the city never got the idea for Municipal Stadium, and the Indians ended up making the adjustments that were made to Shibe Park, Forbes Field and other League Park contemporaries.)

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    You know, I didn’t really think about that – at least the turf can be replaced down the road. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them do so. Either because the turf becomes too expensive to maintain (it will need to be replaced and repaired over the years) or because they decide that grass is simpler in the end. At least it’s not something where they’re saying “let’s bulldoze the ticket office!”

    I agree with you exactly though – to go to lengths to make sure the rest of the park is accurate and beautiful, just makes this seem more baffling. I’d even agree with lights, because you’re right – they probably would’ve been there at some point. Turf is just a huge pet peeve of mine. Plus, I’m wondering how it will hold up exposed to the elements. Rogers Center and Tropicana Field both have roofs to block out bad weather. I remember it being in those cookie-cutter parks (Three Rivers, Riverfront, etc.) but the high walls probably provided some level of protection from the elements. I’m just wondering how easy it is for that rubber filler to wash away (and to subsequently need replaced) although I’d have to look into it more, as well as finding out exactly which type of turf they plan to use.

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