Friday, June 10, 2011

Looking Back: My Plan to Revitalize Bush Stadium


The city has a plan to redevelop Bush Stadium. This was my plan for revitalizing Bush Stadium back in 2009. Republished from then.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2009

Sad Old Owen G. Bush Stadium Could Lead Redevelopment for Near Westside

Old Bush Stadium sits empty except for a few "Cash for Clunkers" clunkers.

As the Indianapolis Star reported yesterday morning, a salvage company is paying the city $2000 a month to rent the former home of the Indianapolis Indians to store old cars and trucks traded in under the federal government's successful program. I guess the city should be credited for getting something out of the old girl. Still, the aging stadium is still structurally sound and could be utilized for something really really good.

Many people know the story of Bush Stadium, but I'm sure some have forgotten. Built in 1931, Perry Stadium, as it was then known, was the home of the Indianapolis Indians from its opening to its closing in 1996. It was known as Victory Field after World War II and was renamed Owen G. "Donnie" Bush Stadium in 1967 when it was sold to the City of Indianapolis. Not only did the Indianapolis Indians play in its ivy-walled confines, but the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns played there, too.

Instead of watching the place continue to decay, maybe Indianapolis can offer up the facility for something good. I propose that the stadium could perhaps be converted into a museum celebrating the African-American in baseball from before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier until today.

Now, I know that Cooperstown has the Baseball Hall of Fame and that Kansas City has the Negro League Hall of Fame, but please hear me out. Maybe I'm off base here...you decide.

According to Major League Baseball, only 10 percent of players were black in 2008. That was actually a rise from the 2007 numbers which showed that only a little over eight percent of the players were black. Simply stated, black youths are not playing baseball any longer in the numbers they did even when I was a kid. It's an extremely troubling issue for a sport that still calls itself "America's Pastime." Besides, baseball now has marketable African-American stars like C.C. Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard. Major League Baseball is trying to promote itself actively to young African-Americans for the good of the game.

Perhaps Bush Stadium is the right place to bring this all to fruit. What if the stadium is sold to Major League Baseball or to a private non-profit organization that will raise funds to convert the stadium back to its 1940's appearance? After that, youths and parents from all over the country could be invited in to enjoy the beautiful venue and watch baseball teams of all levels play on the field. The museum celebrating blacks in baseball could be the hook with everything dedicated to the purpose of trying to reintroduce baseball to black youths and celebrating the contribution of blacks to America's Pastime.

Whatever happens to the stadium, it deserves better than this. It has served this city and its baseball fans proudly for decades and is on the United States Register of Historic Places. Maybe the place needs an advocate in city government rather than one that just rents it off as a salvage yard and is happy with the rather smallish $2K a month in rent.

I fear we're going to lose the stadium, and, honestly, I don't think that would necessarily a bad thing if it continues to sit. If something isn't done to redevelop the place, I say it should be torn down so that it doesn't suffer anymore. It would be a sad end to an historic stadium, but it would be putting the place out of its misery. Nonetheless, I think the city is missing a big opportunity with such great events like Black Expo and the Circle City Classic to make old Bush Stadium a grand destination again. I think that folks would be all over this type of proposal ready to write checks to help. It can happen. What do you think?

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