State recognizes transformation of Hamtramck’s historical stadium

The renovation of Hamtramck’s baseball stadium was given a special honor recently. The state honored the renovation effort by the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium with the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.


By Charles Sercombe
There are amazing comebacks in sports.
And there are also some pretty amazing ones for sports stadiums.
Case in point: Hamtramck’s historical baseball stadium, which went from being a dilapidated eyesore to the city’s sparkling new jewel.
Recently, the state awarded the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation to the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium in honor of the renovations done at the stadium.
Three other state projects also received the honor.
A ceremony was held last week in Lansing, where Lt. Gov. Garlin Ghilchrist and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) made the presentation.
On hand to receive the award was Gary Gillette, Founder and Chair of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, as well as Tom Niczay, former Hamtramck Public Schools Superintendent, among others.
The stadium is only one of a handful that still exist that were part of the legendary Negro Baseball League, from a time back when African-Americans were not allowed to play in the all-white Major Leagues.
The stadium was built in 1930. The color barrier in Major League Baseball was finally broken in 1947, when Hall of Fame player Jackie Robinson played for the then-Brooklyn (now, Los Angeles) Dodgers.
And that pretty much spelled the end of era of the Negro League.

Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium were honored for its work in the renovation of the structure. Those on hand to receive the award are (from the right to left): Dave Libbett, Rebecca Binno Savage, E’toile Libbett, Mike Wilson (President), Gary Gillette (Chair and Founder), State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) and Tom Niczay.

Hamtramck’s stadium eventfully fell into disrepair starting around the 1980s until several years ago, when its historical significance was discovered – thanks to the research done by the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium. The stadium has since undergone major, largely grant-funded, improvements and restorations.
In 2020, The National Park Service, through its African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund, awarded the city and Wayne County $490,729 to make improvements at the stadium and to its grounds.
The financial support just kept getting better. The following year, the Wayne County Commission pitched in $850,000, which was part of a $2.6 million project being funded by several charitable organizations.
Live baseball games have since returned to the stadium. The actual field has been named in honor of Norman “Turkey” Stearnes. Stearnes played with the Detroit Stars of the Negro League at the field.
In a press release, Gilchrist spoke on all of the projects:
“It’s an honor to recognize this select group of outstanding historic preservation achievements today.
“Today’s honorees represent the rich diversity of our communities, our inclusive heritage and the welcoming culture that has long defined us as Michiganders – and continues to this day. These historic sites represent critical pieces of the fabric that make us who we are here in Michigan.”
Also on hand was State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), who reminisced about his days playing at the field.
“I grew up playing baseball at Hamtramck Stadium, not knowing we were standing where the legendary Detroit Stars played,” said Aiyash. “I am so glad to see that our community is being awarded to keep this American jewel protected for years to come.”
Also adding a comment to the occasion was Hamtramck’s new state senator, Stephanie Chang, who said:
“Congratulations to all those involved in the rehabilitation of Hamtramck Stadium. This is an important landmark for Black history, American history, and Hamtramck history.
“I’m excited about the future of the stadium, and the role it will continue to play for residents of Hamtramck and the entire region.”
Also honored at the presentation were the following projects:
o Collaborative Bring Back Calumet initiative, Calumet, Houghton County
o Rehabilitation of Eastern Elementary School into Emerald Flats Apartments, Grand Rapids, Kent County
o Documentation and recovery of the Lake Huron Red Tail aircraft in lower Lake Huron, Port Huron vicinity, St. Clair County
There are ongoing plans for further improvements at the stadium site, which is located in Veterans Park, and it is hoped that it will serve as a diversified entertainment complex in the years to come.

Posted May 12, 2023

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