April 18, 1997
Perry Stadium, that sprawling complex on the city's north side, was one of the proudest projects that emerged in this city from the dark days of the depression in the 1930s. Today it is the location of Daniels Field, where the Perry Maroons play their home football games, but the adjoining baseball field is mostly just a memory. Its outfield serves as a practice field for the gridiron squad and baseball is played there no longer. At one time it was a grand place where the semi-pro Perry Merchants and Perry Oilers baseball teams held forth in addition to the Maroons, but that age has long passed. Today we have numerous parks around the community for Perry Kids Baseball and softball, plus the fine new Joe Ripley Field where the Maroons and our American Legion baseball team play.
The baseball park at the south end of the stadium complex was abandoned, perhaps 15 years ago, when serious concerns were expressed for the safety of spectators. Many young fans, and some adults, chose to sit on top of the 12-foot high sand exterior walls despite repeated warnings. Mortar was crumbling and the stones themselves were showing signs of stress. Architects warned that bulges in the walls were signs of a possible imminent collapse and fears of huge liability claims seemed very real.
Moreover, rest rooms for the public were inadequate and smelly, a haven for rodents. Spectator seats, 3"x12" planks bolted to the tiers of sand stone on concrete piles, were rotting badly and a general deterioration of the facility was obvious.
Similar problems existed at Daniels field, the football arena, on the north side of the complex. Safety concerns were foremost, but dressing rooms for the home team and the visitors were laughably bad -- much too small, for starters. The press box also was less than adequate in terms of size, ventilation, lighting, and seating. Public rest rooms had been a major problem for years. Concession facilities were far too small and located in an inconvenient area. The cost of renovating the stadium seemed immense. Whose responsibility was it?
The stadium was owned by the municipality of Perry but the city school district rented the football and baseball parks for home games and were virtually the only users. Neither the city nor the school district wanted to become involved in costly legal matters that might ensue from injuries incurred by spectators. The situation posed a real dilemma in this sports-happy town.
The school district could not legally pay for expensive improvements on property it did not own; the city was not interested in sinking a sizable hunk of money in the stadium when streets were lined with potholes, electricity distribution problems were mounting, water supply matters were looming, large and other high-priority issues occupied the attention of city officials, even as they do today. What to do? Both the city and the school district wanted to solve the problem and they welcomed the community discussion which developed. Each side tinkered with ideas, including starting over from scratch at a different location. That would have required a school bond issue of generous dimensions to purchase land and build a new stadium. The idea had some merit but was met with little real enthusiasm. There was no reason to think a bond issue would be approved by local school patrons.
Just how this problem was attacked and solved will be the subject of our next Northwest Corner. Stay tuned.