First of a two-part series
PATERSON, N.J. – After a 26-year hiatus, including two years of redevelopment, the historic Hinchliffe Stadium reopened this month, along with new affordable senior housing residences, a 315-space parking garage and access to the 7,800-seat stadium for sporting activities, cultural events, and concerts.
The ribbon cutting and re-opening of Hinchliffe Stadium was celebrated by officials from the city of Paterson, RPM Development Group and real estate development firm BAW Development, along with more than 300 dignitaries, thousands of residents, and guests.
The Hinchcliffe Stadium Neighborhood Restoration Project kicked off in the spring of 2021, facilitating economic opportunities for the city of Paterson with both full- and part-time jobs.
The 90-year-old Hinchliffe Stadium, located in Paterson, New Jersey, stands as one of the only two remaining Negro League ballparks in the U.S. that hosted the League’s baseball games during America’s Jim Crow Era. Located within the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park, the facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in March 2013.
As the former home of the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans, it allowed people of color to display their athletic prowess when segregation and intolerance prevented Black players from admittance to the major leagues.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker counted among the federal, state, and local officials who joined Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, Whoopi Goldberg, and others, on the field on Friday, May 19 to celebrate completion of the $103 million Project.
“This is a victory for our history. Hinchliffe Stadium tells the story of the struggle for social justice and American Integration,” Sayegh said. “The rebirth of the Real Field of Dreams represents a proud moment for Paterson and the United States.”
Project offers a plethora of amenities
The project includes the rehab and ground-up development of the 90-year-old, 7,800-seat athletic facility; a six-story, 75-unit affordable senior housing building located at 1-27 Jasper St.; USGBC LEED Platinum certified studios, one- and two-bedroom units; the 4,000-square foot Charles J. Muth Museum of Hinchliffe Stadium, which showcases Hinchliffe Stadium’s history as a centerpiece in Negro League Baseball, auto-racing and high-school football; a 3,800-square foot food court; a 5,200-square foot pre-school; and a 315-space parking garage at the intersection of Liberty and Maple Street.
“It’s a pleasure to see the culmination of our hard work finally realized,” said Baye Adofo-Wilson, founder and CEO, BAW Development and a native of Paterson. “This project was a labor of love that would not have been possible without the diverse group of public-private partners who came together to breathe life back into this historic site.
Adofo-Wilson said the athletic facility once served as a thriving commercial corridor for the community before falling into disrepair decades ago. “As one of Paterson’s most ambitious large-scale developments in many years, I’m incredibly excited about the future of this project for the city and the many lives that will be positively impacted by it,” he said.
Hinchliffe Stadium joins the 21st century
“Hinchliffe was a gathering place for friends and family to meet up, celebrate cultural events and cheer on their local sports teams, and I’m pleased it will serve a similar purpose once again,” Adofo-Wilson said. “As a Patersonian, my ties to the stadium’s rich history run deep, and I am glad to see it return to its former glory.”
In 1995, Paterson’s superintendent of schools recommended that Hinchliffe Stadium – no longer a place where student athletes could compete safely – be closed until conditions improved. She was on hand for the celebration.
“Hinchliffe Stadium reopening after all these years is a beautiful sight to behold,” said Paterson Superintendent of Schools Eileen F. Shafer. “It is my hope that Hinchliffe Stadium remains, first and foremost, a facility that serves the students of Paterson and their families. I look forward to time-honored traditions like the Thanksgiving Classic football game returning to this beautiful historic landmark.”
In addition to being home to independent minor league baseball club the New Jersey Jackals, the multipurpose stadium will host a variety of local high school and league-based sporting events, including baseball, football, soccer, track, and lacrosse. The stadium will also be home field to Kennedy High School for several sports and will serve the wider community by hosting concerts, festivals, graduations, sports camps, and other semi-pro and professional sporting events.
Bryan Verhasselt of RPM Development Group will serve as general manager of the newly created Hinchliffe District, which includes both the stadium and the senior housing community.
“The bones of the stadium are all original, and we went through a painstaking process to ensure the facility was brought up to code, including the addition of modern ADA accommodations,” Verhasselt said. “I am so proud of all we have accomplished in a short period of time to preserve this local landmark and provide the Paterson community with a venue and gathering place it deserves.”
In part two of this series, we feature an interview with Baye Adofo-Wilson, founder and CEO, BAW Development and a native of Paterson.