CLEVELAND — “Play ball” will once again be heard at League Park. City leaders took part in the groundbreaking for the restoration and improvement of the historic park.
The empty field at East 66th and Lexington is being restored to its old glory. It’s where the Cleveland Indians won their first World Series and Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run.
Michael Cox, Cleveland Director of Public Works, pointed out that and other historic events that have taken place at League Park.
“You got to understand the significance of Satchel Paige pitching off that rubber out there, that was sixty feet away. You got to understand the Negro League playing here,” he added.
Built in 1891, League Park is the oldest remaining original ballpark in the United States. The project includes restoring the historic ticket house, grandstand wall and constructing a new visitors center and museum.
“People will come to Cleveland when they look at historic things, one of the places they will visit will be this museum. It will have a museum. It will have an active ball field,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said.
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. Home plate of course will be where Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run in the exact location,” Volpe added.
The $6.3 million dollar project will not only restore this historic building and ball field, but a community park will also be built. It will have spray basins for children to cool down in the Summer, pavilions and walking trails.
The League Park Heritage Association led the community effort for the project. Paula Gist with the Association said this project is seen as a vital part of the re-building of the Hough neighborhood.
“This goes along with everything else that is happening here with the new homes. The middle class people moving back into the neighborhood. We have a world-class attraction that shouldn’t sit dormant anymore,” Gist said.
The restoration of League Park is 20 years in the planning, first proposed by the late Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis. The project is expected to be completed by next September, so baseball can once again be played at League Park.