One of the last all-wood baseball stadiums in America recently burned to the ground in a fiery maelstrom. It happened during a prolonged heat wave ( reaching 100 degrees) here in our usually temperate Northwest valley, which gave the whole affair an apocalyptic feel. Civic Stadium was built during the Depression era and was made out of old growth Douglas Fir wood. It was funded under a New Deal work program (here in the Pacific Northwest many of our fabulous parks and trails were built this way), and the labor was done by people who would not otherwise have had jobs during that difficult economic period. Many people grew up watching sports at the stadium and the local baseball team played there until 2010.
It was sad to see it go. Especially because it appears to have been the victim of arson by a group of pre-teen boys.
Sadder still, though, was how the stadium was allowed to fall into disrepair and sat abandoned while the city wrangled for years over its fate. After 6 years of bureaucratic bogging, a local group concerned with saving and renovating the historic property was finally able to purchase it after raising the required millions of dollars.
And then it burned to the ground, weeks before the renovation was to occur.
Anyone who has ever wrangled with the glacial pace and often indifferent attitude of local government will relate to the extra measure of outrage over this situation. Even those who were not in favor of the renovation were distraught over the loss of all the old-growth Douglas Fir that could have been repurposed or, as one letter-writer to the local paper pointed out, been sold as souvenirs, further funding projects for the property. Many people believe that the fiery destruction likely never would have happened had the city not dithered for years, leaving the structure abandoned, uncared for, and vulnerable.
The group that bought the property says they will continue with plans to renovate the property. Original plans seem to have included putting in a pocket park along with a sports facility. As a person interested in liminal public spaces, especially urban green spaces (which are integral to my own spiritual practice, and I know others feel this way), I hope they will continue to plan to do so—the property is in a fairly dense residential area and a pocket park would be a beneficial addition.
As we move through this unusually hot and dry summer, we shall see if a phoenix will begin to rise from the embers of Civic in the form of a space useful and pleasing to all, appreciated and cared for properly by the local government and community. At the very least, the demise of Civic should highlight our need for proper stewardship of our public spaces, to the benefit of all.