Can the Rebirth of a Negro League Stadium Revive a Distressed City?

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PATERSON, N.J. — There used to be a ballpark here, at the corner of Maple and Liberty. Baseball royalty once rounded the bases, and city residents once packed the stands. Now defaced with graffiti, Hinchliffe Stadium looks like a blighted lot about to be razed. Weeds and trees have uprooted the bleachers, and asphalt and trash cover the infield.“This is a stadium that unfortunately has symbolized the decay and decline of the city,” André Sayegh, the city’s mayor, said. “It’s sad. And it speaks to the trajectory of Paterson. What we’re trying to do is put Paterson back on the map, and part of that is restoring the stadium to its previous glory.”Hinchliffe, vacant since 1997, is one of the few stadiums from the Negro leagues still standing. An architectural gem and a symbol of perseverance amid racial injustice, it became a casualty of this economically distressed city’s more pressing needs. After multiple failed attempts to fund its revival, a ninth-inning save seemed unlikely. Image“This is a stadium that unfortunately has symbolized the decay and decline of the city,” André Sayegh, the city’s mayor, said.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York TimesImageAn architectural gem and a symbol of perseverance amid racial injustice, Hinchliffe became a casualty of this economically distressed city’s more pressing needs.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York TimesUntil now. After much debate in the last several months, a proposal to transform Hinchliffe into a multisport facility, primarily for children and high school teams, cleared its last local hurdle recently when City Council members approved the development plan.Construction is expected to begin next year, in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro leagues. Once home to the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans, Hinchliffe was host to such players as Monte Irvin, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Paterson’s own Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League.Previous efforts to bring the place back to life faltered, leav

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