PATERSON, NJ – A national non-profit group that helps protect and preserve historic sites has begun working on a strategy to raise funds for Hinchliffe Stadium.
The National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation has designated Hinchliffe, which is one of two stadiums still standing form the old Negro baseball leagues, one of its national treasurers.
Staff members from the group met at Paterson City Hall last week with members of the city government, the Paterson Public Schools and The Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.
“I’m excited about it,’’ said Paterson Public Works Director Christopher Coke. “I actually feel it’s going to go somewhere. The big thing, I think, is that we’ve got everybody on the same page working together.’’
For now, the National Trust is focusing on the short-term goal of raising the last $300,000 needed to match a $500,000 state grant for stabilization of the deteriorated stadium, said Walter Gallas, one of the non-profit group’s representatives who attended the meeting on July 24. The group expects to have a proposed funding strategy in place ready for city and school district officials to consider next month.
Officials say vandalism, erosion and damage from squatters’ fires has left Hinchliffe in precarious shape and they say it needs repairs to keep it structurally sound.
Once that gets done, the Historic Trust will begin work on raising money needed to bring Hinchliffe back to life. “We agree the goal is to restore the stadium back to use,’’’ said Gallas.
"The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been a long-time supporter of the rehabilitation of Hinchliffe Stadium,’’ said Brian Lopinto of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadiium. “This was evident when the Trust named Hinchliffe one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
“For years, the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium has contended that the stadium has national significance,’’ LoPinto added. “When the highest authority on historic preservation names Hinchliffe Stadium a ‘National Treasure,’ it emphasizes precisely how important this historic ballpark is to African-American history."
The stadium is owned by the Paterson Public Schools, but education officials handed over part of the responsibility for Hinchcliffe’s restoration in a shared services agreement reached a couple years ago. But neither the city government nor the school district has the kind of money needed to restore the stadium.
Officials say it would cost between $10 million and $15 million in repairs for Hinchliffe to be used for public events again. Officials have talked about bigger plans – like including a skating rink or restaurant – at the site. There has been some talk of expanding the newly designated national park at the Great Falls to include Hinchliffe, but some officials are not sure that Paterson should relinquish control of such as an asset.
Hinchliffe opened 80 years ago, but has been shut down for the past 15 years.