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Community gathers to celebrate, plan for new Memorial Stadium
Facility renovation starts in summer
 
Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 11:31 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
A poster showing the history of Memorial Stadium site in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Renovations to Memorial, which was built during the Great Depression, is scheduled for the summer and completed in 2021. 

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Time is up on the original American Legion Memorial Stadium.

A public meeting was held tonight at Grady Cole Center in Elizabeth where attendees walked through the facility to review the history of the stadium and Independence Park. They also had an opportunity to write what they would like to see added or removed, as the area is expected to undergo renovations beginning this year with completion expected in 2021. Demolition of the Mecklenburg County-owned stadium will begin this summer.

The Charlotte Independence will be Memorial’s primary tenant, which will accommodate primarily high school football, minor league soccer and lacrosse on an artificial surface. While widening the field requires a slightly different shape, the refurbished stadium should have a similar feel. Jenkins Peer Architects and HOK will oversee the design process.

“In terms of preserving the historic integrity, that was a real interesting dilemma,” said Victor Jones of Jenkins Peer. “The most important thing is that the facility be able to, for cultural purposes, maintain its utility. The current facility is in such bad shape that it does not really have much utility at all. The most important thing is to bring it up to a state of utility, so it can be used.”

Said Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett: “There has been a lot of deferred maintenance over decades, dating back at least as far as Hurricane Hugo in the 1980s. It’s not going to be possible to do everything, so what should folks do? That’s what Park and Recreation is asking.”

Based on the state of disrepair, Memorial falls under what Jones described as “rehabilitation.”

“First and foremost, this project is a rehabilitation of the stadium, to make it as multifunctional as possible,” Jones said.

Recreating an identical stadium is not possible based on the need for additional width.

“In terms of preservation of character, obviously the field of play had to get much wider to accommodate the different sports,” Jones said. “We weren’t able to keep exactly the same curve, but we tried to keep the spirit of the sweeping curve of the stone wall.”

The stadium’s stone wall will be replicated.

“We are going to try to re-create that, almost literally,” Jones said. “This is a bowl scheme, much like it was originally. We are actually replicating the existing ticket booths, which were the most historic architecturally. We are either going to relocate them or we’re going to replicate them. It just depends on money and how that works out.”

Memorial emerged as Charlotte’s first major event venue. It was built during the Great Depression, providing work for Charlotteans as a part of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. While minor renovations and proposals to repurpose the site have been presented over the years, the county allocated $31 million from the capital improvement plan to renovate the area.

“When I first came on the county commission, almost 11 years [ago], they were talking about renovations to Memorial Stadium,” Commissioner George Dunlap said. “That was something I was pushing then, and 10 years later, I’m still pushing it, but the good thing is I’m finally beginning to see the results of efforts from people in this community to restore the facility to its rightful place in our history. The stadium was built in honor of our veterans, and it had become a place of disrepair.”

 

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